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Tobacco litter costs and public policy: a framework and methodology for considering the use of fees to offset abatement costs
  1. John E Schneider1,2,
  2. N Andrew Peterson3,
  3. Noemi Kiss4,
  4. Omar Ebeid4,
  5. Alexis S Doyle5
  1. 1Health Economics, Oxford Outcomes, Inc., Morristown, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2Department of Economics, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA
  3. 3School of Social Work, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
  4. 4Oxford Outcomes, Inc., Morristown, New Jersey, USA
  5. 5Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr John E Schneider, Health Economics, Oxford Outcomes, Inc., 161 Madison Avenue, Suite 205, Morristown, New Jersey 07960, USA; john.schneider{at}


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.

  • Economics
  • public policy
  • tobacco products

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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  • Funding This work was funded by the City of San Francisco.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.