Toss a cigarette butt in Portland, get a $100 fine

Bridget Brown/Bangor Daily News

Cigarette butts pile up in a coffee tin near a popular smoke break location for several dining service employees near Memorial Union at the University of Maine in Orono in 2008.

PORTLAND, Maine — Flicking a cigarette butt into a Portland gutter can cost a person $100.

The City Council on Monday night unanimously passed an amendment to the litter ordinance clarifying that dropping cigarette butts on city property — including streets, sidewalks, parks, alleys and gutters — is littering and can be fined accordingly.

The move came about in response to concerns expressed by members of Portland’s Downtown District and its executive director, Jan Beitzer.

“She said the No. 1 complaint she gets from visitors and businesspeople is the prevalence of cigarette butts in the downtown,” Councilor John Anton told his fellow councilors Monday night.

Anton said studies have shown a third of all garbage nationally consists of cigarette butts, and pointed out that the city of San Francisco has put a 20-cent surcharge on each pack of cigarettes sold to cover the costs of cleanup.

One resident urged the council to vote against the ordinance amendment, as Nancy Page Akers described the move as a slippery slope toward a Big Brother-like future of secret police cameras watching smokers and DNA testing of discarded butts to chase down culprits.

Akers called the implementation of fines “heavy handed” and “government intimidation.”

Fellow Portland resident Robert Haines said he simply felt it would be hard to enforce.

“It’s a good intention and I like the idea, but as a practical matter, I think it would be impossible to make it work,” he told the council.

But others supported the littering clarification and asked that it be part of a more thorough anti-cigarette campaign. Roseanne Graef, head of the West End Neighborhood Association, said neighborhood groups should be included in the downtown’s plans to heighten awareness about proper cigarette butt disposal.

Councilors Anton and Ed Suslovic agreed that the fines, as an initial deterrent, would be part of a larger citywide effort.

“Simply passing an ordinance is not going to solve the problem,” Suslovic acknowledged. “But in my lifetime, littering of all kinds was considered acceptable. People used to throw trash out the windows of their cars. … My hope is, over time, just like we’ve seen positive trends with other types of litter, we’ll see a positive trend with cigarette butts as well.”

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why not make more cigarette butt canisters near popular smoking places. You can find a street light or street sign on almost any corner. Why not put these near bus stops, outside grocery stores, in parking lots. We have to pay for garbage disposal which comes once a week. It may cost more but in the end it will cost less. Less cleanup, less mess, and less damage to the environment.


well then fine the ones who drop the butts on the ground. But really it will be hard to fine because it will cost more to have someone patrol to find these smoking law breakers. They need to just ban cigarettes period. They ban most everything else anyway. People don't like to wear seatbelts but they do because they know they will get a ticket if they don't. I've actually had people pull in my driveway and dump their ashtray on the ground and leave. I quit smoking 12 years ago and I dropped one butt on the ground and got yelled at by my neighbor. That was the last time I did that.

Paul Duncan's picture

To Cathy

Cathy, I can understand that you are trying to give a compromise. But you can't imagine how many times I have seen someone throw a butt on the ground out of habit when they are only a couple of feet from a butt can. And I have had jobs in the past where I have had to clean up the butts that inconsiderate smokers have thrown on the ground. I think that no matter how you look at it, to allow smoking in public places is a bad idea. Fines are a good start.

Paul Duncan's picture

Cigarette litter

It's about time! I hope this type of law goes into effect in all communities of the state. Not only are cigarette smokers inconsiderate with the smoke they force you to breath, they are inconsiderate with the trash (butts)they are always throwing around. Just because a law is hard to enforce doesn't mean it shouldn't be on the books and enforced vigorously as well.

Scott  Perry's picture

To Paul Duncan

I beg to differ with you Mr. Duncan, but not ALL smokers are inconsiderate! Some of us are VERY considerate when we are smoking. Some of us actually move away from others when we are smoking where others are present. Nobody "forces" you to breath their smoke. You could always ask them to be considerate and move away from you if they are that close. But, remember that if you walk up next to them while they are smoking, shoud they have to move because you invaded their space?

Paul Duncan's picture

Cigarette litter

Maybe not all smokers, but most. And the issue here anyway is the litter. How many smokers do you know that when walking down the street smoking a cigarette, don't just throw the butt on the ground when they're done? How many throw their cigarette butts out the window of their car rather than mess up their ashtray? Or if they do use their ashtray, how many dump it out on the street in front of someone elses house. And as to invading your space, if you have two people in any given space, whether one had to be there or not, the person who lights up is the one invading the space the moment the smoke leaves their mouth or the end of their cigarette. And as to being forced to breathe other peoples smoke, it happens every time I have to enter a building to do business and a group of people are standing just outside the door smoking away, or when I'm down wind of them at the beach trying to enjoy the fresh air. And what ever you do, don't get me going on the health issues regarding cigarettes! There is nothing good about smoking and tobacco products at all, and if all kinds of other substances are illegal because of their effects on society, maybe tobacco products should be illegal as well.

Scott  Perry's picture


I realize the issue is litter - I was simply commenting on the other "issues" which you infused into the conversation in your original comment. Also, I did not say that if a person lights up while in the company of others that they were in the right in any way. I said that if someone is smoking and you approach them. But anyway. I don't disagree that many smokers are inconsiderate - I disagree that ALL smokers are inconsiderate.


doesn't matter if you are near someone when smoking. It's still in the air. Do you think that just because you are in a smog infested town you can just go to the next town and not have it? Wrong. it's in the air. it's like pollen it flows through the air. remember that nuclear fiasco in china? the particles from that registered all the way here in just because you're not smoking near someone don't think it doesn't affect us. I'm an ex smoker. i can tell if a person smokes while walking down the street. I can smell it from the car in front of me. It's called second hand smoke. You are forcing us to breathe it in even if you didn't mean it.


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