SF may adopt cigarette cleanup tax

May 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The city that became first in the nation to outlaw cigarettes from drugstores, now wants to become the first to charge smokers a fee to clean up cigarette butts. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposal on Tuesday.

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Mayor Newsom is proposing a 33-cent fee for each pack of cigarettes purchased in the city to pay for the cleanup of cigarette butts.

"The people who are throwing the butts on the ground are the people smoking the cigarettes so we're going to pass the cost on to those people," said the mayor's spokesperson, Nathan Ballard.

City officials say they spend $44 million a year to pick up litter, about $11 million of it for cigarette-related trash. And with San Francisco facing a budget crisis, the mayor feels every little bit helps.

"This is not a good enough reason to penalize smokers. Smokers have become a scapegoat for everything," said an opponent.

"I need a reason to quit, so bump up the price," said a smoker.

Right now, a pack of cigarettes in San Francisco costs $5-$6. The federal tax jumped in April to $1.01, state tax is 87 cents, and then add the proposed 33-cent fee.

Compare that to New York City where the price is as high as $10 a pack plus the federal tax, a hefty $2.75 state tax and $1.50 city tax.

The American Lung Association loves seeing the costs go up.

"We have found that when you raise the price of cigarettes you reduce the number of kids who never start and provide incentives and motivation for people who are trying very hard to quit," said

But a spokesman for the Reynolds Tobacco Company told ABC7: "Cigarettes are highly taxed already. Most smokers tend to be low to moderate income. The people who can least afford to pay more are the ones who will have to."

The mayor plans to include the fee as a line item in the budget he presents to the Board of Supervisors June 1. .

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