Updated 29 May 2013

Go green, quit smoking

How tobacco harms the planet.

If you’re looking for some extra motivation to quit smoking and make your home a smoke-free zone on Friday (31 May, World No Tobacco Day), consider that smoking isn’t only a serious health issue, it’s a serious environmental issue too.

Here’s why:

  • Tobacco smoke is still a major component of air pollution indoors, where we spend most of our time. Even when people smoke outside, studies have shown that smoke can still find its way in through open windows and doors. Smokers also bring toxins inside on their hair and clothing.
  • Land is deforested to make way for tobacco plantations, and when trees are felled to be used in curing the leaves, which is common practice in several parts of the developing world. Around 200 000 hectares of forest are cut down each year for tobacco farming.
  • Tobacco plants tend to leach nutrients from the soil, and this type of cultivation is very pesticide and fertiliser-heavy.
  • Tobacco companies produce an estimated 6.3 trillion cigarettes annually; the paper for these and their packaging requires further felling of trees.
  • Cigarette manufacture produces greenhouse gas and billions of kilograms of waste, as does all the other items associated with smoking – packaging, lighters, matches and ashtrays.
  • Cigarette butts, which introduce toxins into the soil and groundwater, are the world’s number one litter item. They are also toxic to children or wildlife that pick them up.
  • Improperly extinguished cigarettes are thought to cause around 10% of all forest fires (as well as many more structural fires).
All of which seems like a lot of unnecessary waste for a product that does not feed the hungry, nor cure illness, nor improve quality of life in any meaningful way… In a world of scarce resources, this is one item we simply must learn to do without.


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