How Does The Tobacco Industry Affect The Environment?

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Smoking has been proven to be harmful to human health. It is the largest global cause of mortality that is preventable and accounts for one-fifth of all fatalities in the United States each year.
But a burgeoning body of advocacy and study is shedding light on how the tobacco industry also has an adverse impact on the environment. A brief released this month by STOP, a monitoring organisation for the tobacco industry, is the most recent development in this growing awareness.

According to Deborah Sy, who oversees Global Public Policy and Strategies for STOP partner the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) and assisted in the brief’s preparation, “Big tobacco impedes… our environmental goals for the planet and it needs to be held accountable for the damage done.”

A Lifecycle of Harm

The latest study examines the negative effects of cigarettes on the ecosystem, highlighting five primary effects:

Land-Use Change: Tobacco farmers want virgin land, yet unsustainable agricultural methods prevent cleared woods from having the time to regenerate. As a result, tobacco farming currently accounts for up to 30% of deforestation in tobacco-growing nations and 5% of deforestation globally.
Charred Wood: Trees are also felled for use as fuel in the manufacture of matches and as fuel to “flue cure” tobacco leaves. A total of 200,000 hectares of wood biomass are destroyed annually by the production of tobacco, which worsens water scarcity and erosion.

Cigarette butts, which enter the environment in 4.5 trillion pieces annually, are the most dangerous waste on Earth. Cigarette filters contribute to the plastic pollution disaster and leach arsenic, lead, and ethyl phenol into waterways since they are made of plastic and contain harmful compounds. Additionally dangerous substances that are difficult to safely dispose of are found in lighters and e-cigarettes. 

Smoking cigarettes is the primary cause of unintentional fires in the United States, including wildfires. Additionally, they start 8 to 10% of all fires in the United States.

Thomas Novotny, who was not involved in the brief and is an adjunct professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego and an emeritus professor of global health in the division of epidemiology and biostatistics, has been studying the effects of smoking on the environment for ten to fifteen years. Similar words were used to summaries the cigarette industry’s impact.

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