It’s common knowledge that smoking kills a ridiculous amount of people every year – eight million, to be exact. What we hear far less about, however, is the tobacco industry’s ‘devastating’ impact on the planet.
If the inevitability of lung disease and emphysema aren’t high enough stakes to convince you to pack in the cigarettes, let’s try a different approach.
The World Health Organisation just released a comprehensive report outlining the destructive impact of the deadly industry on the environment – and, inadvertently, the health of non-smokers too.
Every year, tobacco farming costs the world some 600m trees, 200,000 hectares of land, 22bn tons of water, and 84m tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. For context, this emission dump is equivalent to around one-fifth produced by the entire airline industry.
The majority of this tobacco is grown in low-to-middle income countries, which means that already scarce resources like water and fertile soil have to be diverted into farming the plants. Meanwhile, increasing consumer demand is prompting companies to tear down forests for more space.
Once the stuff is eventually tucked up within roll-up envelopes and cigarette packs, it becomes an environmental menace of an entirely different variety. Does it ever end?
The answer is an emphatic no! Tobacco products are also reportedly the most littered item on the planet, containing 7,000 chemicals scientifically flagged as toxic to our environment.
As of today, approximately 4.5tn cigarette filters pollute our oceans, beaches, rivers, streets, parks, and soil every year, according to Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.