City of Baltimore Files a First of its Kind Lawsuit Against Tobacco Companies for Cigarette Filter Waste
Monday Nov 21st, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, MD. (Monday, November 21, 2022) - The City of Baltimore and Mayor Brandon Scott announced today the joint filing of a lawsuit to hold cigarette manufacturers accountable for cleanup costs associated with tobacco product litter.
Every year, millions of cigarette filters are littered throughout Baltimore. They pollute the soil and water and create a huge cleanup burden for the city. Baltimore spends over $32 million annually to collect upwards of 2,600 tons of litter, including an estimated $5.3 million spent mitigating cigarette filter litter. The City seeks to hold tobacco companies responsible for the discarded filters and to subsequently bear the cost of cigarette cleanup.
"This is the first litter lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers, and Baltimore is proud to lead the way in ensuring that these companies pay for cleanup costs that for decades they have offloaded on communities like ours," said Mayor Brandon M. Scott.
Cigarette filters look like cotton but are actually cellulose acetate-based and non-biodegradable. According to a study by the University of California at Berkley, when discarded on the ground, cigarette butts can leach toxic cigarette additives like heavy metals, ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene into the water and soil. The chemicals these non-biodegradable filters release can remain in the environment for decades.
While biodegradable cigarette filters made from organic materials are in existence, many tobacco companies have opted to use non-biodegradable filters instead because customers prefer the "draw" of the non-biodegradable filter. They have also opted not to place warnings on cigarette packages informing smokers to properly dispose of toxic cigarette filters, fearing warnings would reduce sales. These choices have had disastrous consequences for flora, fauna, land, and waterways. Cigarette filters are the most common type of litter in the world, with an estimated 4.5 trillion filters thrown away each year worldwide.
DPW provides trash disposal services in the city, but its budget has been stretched thin by the millions of dollars spent clearing sewage and drainage pipes of clogs from cigarette filters. A significant portion of Baltimore's annual spending on litter collection is spent on cigarette filter litter. This added expenditure would not be necessary if the Defendant tobacco companies had not deceived consumers, failed to educate the public, and off-loaded their cigarette filter cleanup costs to Baltimore.
"The same tobacco companies that for decades failed to acknowledge the health risks of their products are now refusing to take responsibility for cigarette butt waste," said Baltimore City Solicitor James L. Shea. "We believe this lawsuit will hold Big Tobacco accountable for the damage its product causes to the City's streets and waterways."
Baltimore's lawsuit seeks to recover expenditures and losses resulting from cigarette filter litter in the city, including cleanup and disposal costs, damage to natural resources, diminution in property values, loss of revenue, and substantial fines for dumping their litter in the city. Sara Gross and Jane Lewis of the Baltimore City Law Department, Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman LLP, and Smouse & Mason LLC are representing Baltimore against Phillip Morris, Altria Group, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, British American Tobacco, Liggett Group, and the cigarette distributor, The George J. Falter Company.