Portland should give serious consideration to banning the sale of filtered cigarettes.

There are, in round numbers, 50,000 adults in Portland. Using national statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 7,500 of them likely smoke. They average about 14 cigarettes a day.

Crunch all those numbers and you arrive at a ballpark figure of about 100,000 cigarettes smoked every day in Portland. In just 10 days, the tally reaches 1 million. Ninety percent of them are filtered cigarettes. And that’s the problem.

Filtered cigarettes end up in trash bags hauled to the dump, stomped out on sidewalks or flipped out car windows. Most of them are swept away by rains into Casco Bay. No wonder cigarettes are considered the worst polluters on the planet.

It’s not the tobacco or the paper that are the problems. They are organic. They compost. The real problem is the filters.

Filters came into being in the 1950s when it was proved that smoking causes cancer. Cigarette sales plummeted. Desperate tobacco companies began attaching filters to cigarettes. They claimed filters made smoking safe. One cigarette manufacturer went as far as to claim their filters were the “greatest health protection in history.” Smokers lit up again.

Turns out the filters are made of plastic, may increase the risk of cancer and take 15 years or more to break down.

California has been considering a bill that would outlaw the sale of filtered cigarettes. Portland should consider doing the same thing.

The ban could be on filtered cigarettes only. It would not affect the sale of non-filtered cigarettes. The public has turned against plastic straws; now it needs to turn against filtered ciggies.

Harley Marshall


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