March 21, 2023

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The city of Baltimore has filed a lawsuit seeking to hold cigarette manufacturers accountable for cleanup costs and environmental damages it says are associated with tobacco product litter.

Baltimore wants to recover expenses 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, as well as substantial fines for dumping the litter in the city.

“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.

The city claims that cigarette filters are the “most common type of litter in the world” and alleges that millions of cigarette filters are littered throughout Baltimore every year, polluting the soil and water and creating a “huge cleanup burden.” Baltimore says it spends more than $32 million annually to collect upwards of 2,600 tons of litter, including an estimated $5.3 million spent mitigating cigarette filter litter. It says it spends millions of dollars clearing sewage and drainage pipes of clogs from cigarette filters.

The complaint filed in state court cites a study by the University of California at Berkley that found that discarded cigarette butts can leach toxic heavy metals, ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene into the water and soil and these.chemicals can remain in the environment for decades.

The complaint also claims that many tobacco companies have opted to not use available non-biodegradable filters.

The counts brought include negligent design and public nuisance in addition to alleged violations of pollution and littering regulations.

“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.”

The suit names cigarette makers Phillip Morris, Altria Group, RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco, Liggett Group, and the cigarette distributor, The George J. Falter Co.


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