San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed a $0.33 tax on cigarettes to address the problem of cleaning up butts! This follows an audit (PDF) of litter in the city that found cigarette butts to be a major problem (along with chewing gum, and unbranded napkins).
The cigarette companies are against it:
“Obviously we think people should follow the littering laws, in California and elsewhere,” said Frank Lester, a spokesman for Reynolds American Inc., the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of cigarettes. “But we oppose any additional taxation on smokers to pay for that.”
But, isn’t this a rational response to the problem? The city performed an audit of a costly problem and found that smoking was a major contributor to the problem. A tax on smokers (so long as proportionate) seems like a good way to address the problem. The alternative proposed by Frank Lester would be to use our police resources on enforcement of a minor criminal law, and thus subject his own customers to citation and possible arrest!
Anyway, our culture has become much more sensitive to littering. None of us would throw a Coke can out the car window. But so many of us would flick a cigarette butt, even when there is a receptacle for butts nearby. Why?