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Baltimore City

Baltimore files ‘first of its kind’ lawsuit against tobacco companies for cigarette filter waste

Baltimore City and Mayor Brandon Scott announced Monday that they had jointly filed a lawsuit against tobacco companies in an effort to recover money Baltimore spends cleaning up discarded cigarette butts.

Millions of littered cigarette filters pollute Baltimore’s water and soil, the city said in the suit filed in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City. Since May 2014, trash wheels have collected more than 12 million cigarette filters from Baltimore’s waterways, the city said.

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Baltimore spends $5.3 million disposing of cigarette filters each year, the city said in the lawsuit, representing a drain on the Department of Public Works’ budget. The nonbiodegradable filters leach toxic chemicals into the ground and water, where they can remain in the environment for decades, Baltimore argued in its complaint.

The city brought claims against tobacco manufacturers Phillip Morris, Altria Group, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, British American Tobacco and Liggett Group and the cigarette distributor, The George J. Falter Company, under Maryland’s Illegal Dumping and Litter Control Law.

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Attorney information for the tobacco companies was not immediately available.

“This is the first litter lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers, and Baltimore is proud to lead the way in ensuring that these companies pay for cleanup costs that for decades they have offloaded on communities like ours,” Scott said in a statement.

Baltimore said in the suit that tobacco companies had used nonbiodegradable filters in their products when filters made from organic materials existed and had failed to warn smokers about how to properly dispose of their cigarettes, allowing toxic chemicals to damage plants, animals and ecosystems by doing so.

The city is seeking money to cover the cost of cleaning up and getting rid of the cigarette filters, as well as damage it says the tobacco companies have caused to Baltimore’s natural resources, property values and revenue.

”The same tobacco companies that for decades failed to acknowledge the health risks of their products are now refusing to take responsibility for cigarette butt waste,” City Solicitor James L. Shea said in a statement. “We believe this lawsuit will hold Big Tobacco accountable for the damage its product causes to the City’s streets and waterways.”


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