SPRINGFIELD - Illinois' new law that makes flicking cigarettes out the window a felony and $25,000 fine for three or more offenses is attracting national attention, and further evaluation of Illinois' Litter Control Act shows the new butt-flicking ban could end up costing Illinois taxpayers.
Illinois' 1974 Litter Control Act, to which the word "cigarettes" was added to the list of banned litter items with State Rep Deborah Mell's HB 3243, has a section that holds property owners responsible for providing waste receptacles in which to dispose waste, such as now-included flicked cigarette butts.
The Litter Control Act says if no or not enough litter receptacles are placed on property where the illegal "butt flicking" or littering took place, the owner or person in control of the property may be convicted of a petty offense and fined $100. The property owner or person in control of that property has 10 days after receiving a warning to provide the needed receptacles, and if he does not, he may be convicted of a petty offense and fined $25 for each waste receptacle not in place.
With the new law, a cigarette butt flicker stopped by local law enforcement will be ticketed for littering the property along the state or federal highways. The Litter Control Act says if ashtrays or waste receptacles are not "of sufficient volume and in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the numbers of people customarily coming on or using the property," the shortage of receptacles may contribute to illegal littering or "butt flicking," and the property owners may be fined as well.
In the case of public property, Illinois taxpayers could ultimately pay fines if the court finds there are not enough receptacles available for truckers, car and SUV drivers needing to dispose properly of their litter or cigarette butts. Illinois taxpayers could also be held financially responsible for providing a sufficient number of waste receptacles or ashtrays.
When State Rep Mell's bill goes into effect January 1, 2014, not only will the disposable of cigarette butts become the responsibility of taxpayers, but business and private property owners may also face consequences if they do not provide enough waste receptacles.
And as state lawmakers that voted to support HB 3243 must already know, the Litter Control Act allows a court to force the offending party to go back to the scene of the illegal littering or "butt flicking" to pick up the litter he or she left behind - which could result in thousands of frustrated smokers searching the weeds along highways to find his or her illegally-discarded cigarette butt.
Even the Sierra Club, which says cigarette butts are the "most littered object in the world" and sounds the alarm as to the danger cigarette flicking can be to the environment offers a less government-intrusive solution to the "butt" problem HB 3243 requires.
Sierra's intern author Davis Jones writes, "The easiest way to make a difference? Don't litter in the first place — find a designated waste bin for your cigarette. Even better, don a pair of work gloves and organize a trash pick-up day with your friends. Discarded cigarettes might be small, but only our individual efforts will keep the issue from getting any bigger."
In the originating Illinois House, HB 3243 passed 71 to 45, with six House Republicans voting "yes" - John Cabello, Mike McAuliffe, David McSweeney, Ron Sandack, Tim Schmitz and Darlene Senger - and six Democrats voting "no" - Dan Beiser, Katherine Cloonen, Jerry Costello II, Jay Hoffman and Frank Mautino.