San Diego County Chapter

Ban the Butt

Ban the Butt aims to eliminate the negative effects of cigarette butt pollution to the marine environment by ending the production, use, and sale of single-use plastic cigarette filters (aka butts) in San Diego County and beyond.

Butts are the Top Item Found at Beach Cleanups

Cigarette buts are the most littered item in the world.  In San Diego County, butts accounted for one in every five items collected at our 2019 beach cleanups. They are the top item found at our beach cleanups, a position they’ve held every year since we started collecting data in 2007. Often littered on our sidewalks and streets, they end up in our storm drains, flowing to our streams, rivers, bays, lagoons and ultimately the ocean.

Despite a smoking ban on all beaches countywide, numerous anti-cigarette litter campaigns (including our chapter’s own Hold Onto Your Butt program) and a dramatic decline in smoking’s popularity in California over the last 20 years, butts persist as the #1 item found at beach, roadside and neighborhood cleanups in San Diego County. It is time to move beyond the “don’t litter” mentality and attack this problem at its source. Disposable cigarette filters are inherently wasteful by design, and must be stopped.

Ban the Butt

Currently, our efforts revolve around supporting CA Senate Bill 424, the Tobacco Product Recyclability and Producer Responsibility Act. If passed, SB 424 would effectively ban the sale of single-use cigarette filters in our state. This bill passed the Senate Floor in May 2019 and was referred to the California State Assembly, where it must pass the committee approval process before reaching the floor for a vote. In previous legislative sessions, similar bills have died in committee. 

Should this bill fail to pass during the 2020 legislative season, we will pursue efforts to pass a similar ordinance locally.

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Hold On To Your Butt

Surfrider has actively campaigned against cigarette butt pollution since at least 1992, the year we launched the Hold On To Your Butt (HOTYB) program. HOTYB volunteers have installed 200+ cigarette butt receptacles in high traffic areas all over the county, distributed thousands of “pocket ashtrays” to smokers, and held annual Hold Onto Your Butt awareness days.

Along with our Beach Cleanups, the HOTYB program has prevented hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts from entering our ocean, waves and beaches. However, the evidence is clear that these efforts alone are insufficient to deal with such a widespread problem.

It’s time to stop treating cigarette butts as a “litter issue” and hold tobacco producers accountable for the billions of toxic, single-use plastic filters they’re putting into our markets and environment every year. It’s time to Ban the Butt! 

Cigarette Butts Are Not Litter... They're Toxic Waste

Toxic Plastic

Butts are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic that does not readily biodegrade. Additionally, discarded butts contain up to 4000 chemicals & toxins, including lead, arsenic and nicotine. Many are proven carcinogens.

Harmful to Humans

Theoretically, 2oo cigarette butts would kill an adult human if consumed. Millions end up in our environment every day, often making their way to the ocean where we swim, surf and play. This is unacceptable.

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