North Vancouver’s mayor wants to try and curb BC’s butt problem by proposing a deposit on cigarettes to the province.
Darrell Mussatto says it’s not a tax, but would be similar to the extra charge placed on bottles that you get back for bringing them to a Return-It Depot.
“BC’s very well set up because we already have a system in place where deposits are required on different products,” Mussatto tells Daily Hive. “You don’t see very many pop cans and wine bottles on the ground anymore, but you do see cigarette butts.”
North Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously to send a letter to BC’s minister of environment, Mary Polak, with the proposal back in March and Mussatto is now meeting with two more local MLAs to help advocate for the program.
He says in 2013, cigarette butts accounted for 46% of all litter in North Vancouver, and he believes the issue a modern phenomenon.
“In the old days, people would smoke in other people’s houses and they’d have ashtrays. Well, people don’t have ashtrays anymore. They smoke outside and they just throw them on the ground.”
Having a deposit on cigarettes won’t encourage everyone to save their butts, says Mussatto, but someone who’s “entrepreneurial” may decide to collect them from the ground to get some extra cash. He adds that incorporating more ashtrays around the city would only serve as a stimulus for smokers.
“That’s what the industry wants, the tobacco industry wants that because it actually works in their favour to get more people to smoke.”
Mussatto says six million cigarettes are smoked each day in British Columbia, with North Vancouver accounting for 87,000 of those. Cigarette butts can end up in our creeks and streams, but the damage they might inflict is unknown.
“Scientists are doing the research now to see if it’s affecting our waterways and I think it might be.”
Mussatto says he’s making the proposal province-wide because as a municipality, it would be difficult to differentiate between cigarettes purchased in North Vancouver and in other cities around the Metro area. Packages would need to be marked at the time of manufacture to ensure deposits are given only on cigarettes purchased in the city where they’re being returned.