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Lawmakers Take 'on Smokers' Litter.

The "returnable tobacco products bill" that he proposed didn't pass--but Maine Representative Joe Brooks succeeded in raising awareness about the litter that smokers leave behind them.

With 47 million Americans smoking a pack-and-a-half of cigarettes a day, their butts pose a substantial litter problem. Not only that, the filters and remains of cigarettes threaten wildlife, which may mistake them for food, causing nicotine poisoning and eventual death, according to wildlife experts.

Brooks tackled the problem by modeling a bill on a successful 25-year returnable beverage container law. The bill would have added a $1 surcharge to each pack of cigarettes and required tobacco companies to print "5-cent deposit" on every cigarette. Smokers would return their butts to a redemption center to get back the deposit.

Deposits not collected would have gone to the Healthy Maine Fund and used for programs that help smokers kick the habit.

Although the bill failed, lawmakers are now discussing creating a 15-member commission to study Maine's cigarette litter problem. The group would include several legislators, two representatives from the tobacco industry and several members from interested groups, such as the Maine Innkeepers Association.

Philip Morris has agreed to join the discussions. While the company says that cigarette butt litter is a problem, it disagreed with Brooks' proposal. Company representatives say special printing on cigarettes sold only in Maine would create financial and logistical problems.

But Maine is not alone: The Oregon House of Representatives also discussed legislation. Two bills called for a cigarette pack label reading: "Please dispose of the waste from this product properly. Littering is illegal and ill-mannered."
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Title Annotation:deposit law proposed
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1ME
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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