burning-money-cigarette.jpg$10.7 million is what Mayor Gavin Newsom calculates the city of San Francisco spends annually to clean up discarded cigarette butts from “gutters, drainpipes and sidewalks.” Not being one to take litter lightly, Mayor Newsom has proposed a 33 cents per pack clean-up fee for cigarettes sold in his city.

While the filters of cigarette butts pose a particular landfill problem, in that they are slow to decompose, the Mayor is not unaware of the potential “beneficial public health component” given that “in general, fees help reduce consumption and use of tobacco.” (New York Times, May 19, 2009)

I’m always amazed that smokers do not consider cigarette butts litter. How casually I see butts flicked left and right, all around, into the landscaping, dropped on the sidewalk, etc., etc.

I’m not fond of taxes, but generally I do think it is a good idea to tax those who create a problem for the cost of fixing a problem. And I’d rather see our vices taxed (including discretionary consumption), than our virtues (working, our paychecks).