Tobacco litter costs and public policy: a framework and methodology for considering the use of fees to offset abatement costs

Tob Control. 2011 May;20 Suppl 1(Suppl_1):i36-41. doi: 10.1136/tc.2010.041707.


Objectives: Growing concern over the costs, environmental impact and safety of tobacco product litter (TPL) has prompted states and cities to undertake a variety of policy initiatives, of which litter abatement fees are part. The present work describes a framework and methodology for calculating TPL costs and abatement fees.

Methods: Abatement is associated with four categories of costs: (1) mechanical and manual abatement from streets, sidewalks and public places, (2) mechanical and manual abatement from storm water and sewer treatment systems, (3) the costs associated with harm to the ecosystem and harm to industries dependent on clean and healthy ecosystems, and (4) the costs associated with direct harm to human health. The experiences of the City of San Francisco's recently proposed tobacco litter abatement fee serve as a case study.

Results: City and municipal TPL costs are incurred through manual and mechanical clean-up of surfaces and catchment areas. According to some studies, public litter abatement costs to US cities range from US$3 million to US$16 million. TPL typically comprises between 22% and 36% of all visible litter, implying that total public TPL direct abatement costs range from about US$0.5 million to US$6 million for a city the size of San Francisco. The costs of mitigating the negative externalities of TPL in a city the size of San Francisco can be offset by implementing a fee of approximately US$0.20 per pack.

Conclusions: Tobacco litter abatement costs to cities can be substantial, even when the costs of potential environmental pollution and tourism effects are excluded. One public policy option to address tobacco litter is levying of fees on cigarettes sold. The methodology described here for calculating TPL costs and abatement fees may be useful to state and local authorities who are considering adoption of this policy initiative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment
  • Environmental Policy / economics*
  • Fees and Charges*
  • Hazardous Substances / economics
  • Hazardous Waste / economics*
  • Humans
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Water Pollution / economics


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Hazardous Waste