Fredericton — Like old acquaintance not forgotten, the provincial government wants to make sure that new punishments for littering cigarette butts are also brought to mind. Recent regulations intended to stop cigarette litter came into effect on Jan. 1, but most New Brunswickers are being caught by surprise by the rules. While the new penalty passed in the Legislature with little fanfare, the Public Safety minister wants to make sure that New Brunswickers know it’s not smoke and mirrors.
“Littering of cigarette butts on the ground and out of car windows is already illegal. However, that has never stopped anyone from doing it, sort of like using their cellphones while driving,” said Public Safety Minister Stephen Horsman. “Now if someone is caught littering cigarette butts, they must either collect cigarette litter and turn it over to police or pay a $1,000 fine. We hope that this new penalty will raise the profile of this polluting practice and stop people from tossing their toxic trash.”
In 2015, the Gallant government announced sweeping changes to smoking regulations including tough new restrictions on smoking and vaping in public. Also starting Jan. 1, the sale of menthol and flavoured tobacco has been banned in the province. As part of the regulations that came into effect this month, there are tough measures to punish litterers of cigarette butts including those dropped from car windows.
If caught littering cigarette butts, New Brunswickers now must either fill up a coffee can-sized container full of used cigarette filters and turn it over to the local police within 7 days, or pay a fine of $1,000. The origin of the butts may be from personal use or collected from public areas, but the 1-litre container must be full to the brim. If a filled container is not turned over to police in 7 days, the $1,000 fine is automatically imposed. Upgrades to the computer systems to track compliance are expected to cost $2 million.
Reaction to the new measures is decidedly mixed. Smoker Sam Megot is particularly miffed. “This punishment seems really draconian to me. But, I can’t afford a $1,000 fine so I’ve ended up carrying around this coffee can full of cigarette butts all week trying to fill it. This thing stinks to high heaven; it’s really gross.”
However, Green Party leader David Coon is delighted by the new measures. “Most people would never dream of throwing an empty coffee cup or pop bottle on the ground. However, somehow it’s become totally acceptable to toss lit cigarettes out of moving vehicles next to forests and rivers, or to stomp out cigarettes on the ground without a second thought. This new measure will hopefully punish the polluters, and reduce the amounts spent by governments on sanitation.”
Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste worldwide. It is estimated that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butt waste are created each year. New Brunswick’s harsher punishments are already being copied in jurisdictions around the world including Italy, which just announced its own tough new fines for filter-flicking. Similar regulations are already in place in Singapore, which recently fined a cigarette litterer $15,000.
Regarding the concern that a cigarette butt might be hard to find in the winter under the snow, Horsman was unmoved. “If they can’t find their butt with both hands in broad daylight, they’ve got bigger problems.”