06/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Newsom Targets Innocent Smokers

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom wants smokers in his city to pay an extra 33 cents for each pack of cigarettes purchased, to cover the cost of picking up discarded butts and help reduce a daunting budget deficit. That would be on top of the $1.88 per pack in state and federal taxes consumers already pay.

I have a better idea: Raise the fine for befouling the community, and start enforcing the law.

When I briefly lived in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I never saw or heard about anybody being cited for littering, whereas I witnessed plenty of people carelessly flicking cigarette stubs onto sidewalks and streets. The same is true of every other city in America I've ever visited.

I think it's safe to assume cops on patrol see litterbugs in action at least as often as I do on the few occasions I venture out of my ramshackle quarters. So it seems urban leaders everywhere have failed to make pollution-control a high enough priority. They should do so not only for public health and fiscal reasons, but because smokers who don't litter shouldn't be penalized for the crimes of others.

Sorry to drag fairness into the discussion, Mayor.

Jeff Norman blogs at