Aug 5 - SF Cigarette Ordinance Wins in Court Against Big Tobacco

Share

It's another victory for the environment this summer in the California court system.

In 2009, San Francisco passed a cigarette litter migitation fee of 20 cents per pack to cover the jurisdiction's related cleanup costs. Philip Morris USA, which according to its website is the nation's leading cigarette manufacturer, and several local retailers selling cigarettes within the City filed a lawsuit shortly after. They claimed that the 20 cent charge was a tax and required voter approval.

Last month, the San Francisco County Superior Court sided with San Francisco and decided that the measure was not a tax in disguise, but rather a regulatory fee which would reasonably cover the costs of cigarette litter cleanup and abatement.

The Court cited the Sinclair Paint Co. vs. State Board of Equalization case which was a similar 'mitigating effects measure'--'Most taxes are compulsory rather than imposed in response to a voluntary decision to develop or to seek other government benefits or privileges.' The San Francisco ordinance was "imposed under the police power 'to defray the actual or anticipated adverse effects' of cigarette consumption..."

Read the full decision here.


Cigarette butts are the number one item found during beach and coastal cleanup events. They contain dangerous chemicals that contaminate our soil and water quality and can be ingested by wildlife. They are also a potential fire hazard. In San Francisco, roughly 22 percent of its litter composition is cigarette related.

For more on cigarette litter, please visit our website.