Court, wood and toxic plastic: why smoking is not eco-friendly and what to do

    06 Dec 2021

    The tobacco industry is a lucrative, popular and harmful thing. Smoking is addictive and causes several severe diseases and many complications. Persuading smokers to give up harmful addictions is usually ungrateful. However, it is necessary to fight not only for the health of individuals but also for the state of the environment.

    Thanks to “Rubryka” review, we’ve learned exactly how the tobacco industry in general and each smoker affects the environment and what solutions are now being found worldwide to take care of nature.


    What is the problem?

    Farms, farmers, and afflicted forests

    One tree is about 15 packs of cigarettes. At least 600 million trees a year are needed to meet the needs of cigarette production. In addition, cigarette butts thrown into the forest are often the cause of forest fires (in Europe and other countries – Ecolife), when hundreds or thousands of other trees, plants, and animals are affected.

    But not the only trees! According to the WHO, approximately 200,000 hectares of land are used annually to grow tobacco. Because chemicals are often used on such farms, soils become contaminated, and chemical impurities enter water bodies, from which water gradually poisons flora and fauna.

    The harmfulness of such impurities is proved by the fact that farmers who grow tobacco on a large scale are much more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, including cancer. Tobacco dust, nicotine, and pesticides are absorbed through the skin and begin to destroy the body.


    Four and a half trillion cigarette butts and air emissions

    Cigarette butts make up 30 to 40% of all garbage dumped by people each year. In total, this is 4.5 trillion cigarette residues. They contain many toxic substances and elements that decompose for a long time. All this gets into the soil, water, and air.

    Tobacco smoke in the amount we have today also affects the purity of the air. And cigarette factories cause emissions.

    In recent years, there have been many proponents of e-cigarettes and vapes, which manufacturers position as gadgets that reduce the harm of smoking for both smokers and nature. However, this is not the case.

    The tobacco heating aerosol contains more than 50 carcinogenic components. And e-cigarettes contain several toxic substances – metals (chromium, nickel, lead), carbonyl (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, glyoxal), harmful flavors (diacetyl, cinnamaldehyde, benzaldehyde).

    All this is released into the environment after using TVEN and fillers for them. E-cigarettes also include e-waste that cannot be disposed of in ordinary landfills due to the risk of spontaneous combustion. Disposable vape cartridges are packed in plastic blisters that are recyclable due to nicotine. And all this together, in the long run, can affect anyone’s health, regardless of whether a person is a smoker.


    Unhappiness from people and for people

    Humans are a part of nature and also suffer from the effects of tobacco. The WHO reports annually on the dangers of smoking to smokers and their environment, and it is a well-known fact that smoking leads to cancer. There are even precedents where “secondhand” smokers are compensated for smoke-related illnesses.

    In 2001, a 62-year-old woman who entered the Sydney courthouse with one of the thousands of cancer patients became the first person whose disease has been recognized as the responsibility of the tobacco industry.

    Marlene Sharp worked at a local bar near Sydney for 11 years but resigned when doctors diagnosed her with laryngeal cancer. The woman filed a lawsuit against her former employer for allowing him to smoke in a bar and thus making his subordinates passive smokers. The court found the man guilty and ordered him to pay Marlene Sharp 466,000 Australian dollars in compensation, as laryngeal cancer is almost non-existent in cases where a person does not inhale tobacco smoke for a long time.


    What solution?

    Reduce the demand for cigarettes through public policy

    In many countries, official government policies are trying to counter the spread of smoking. In particular, tobacco advertising is completely banned in most countries, and a ban on advertising electronic smoking devices is currently being actively considered.

    In the United States, you can sue the owners of restaurants or bars where you became a second-hand smoker since the 1990s. In Italy, there is a ban on smoking in the presence of pregnant women and children. And Iceland was the first to ban the display of cigarettes in shop windows.


    What to do to minimize environmental damage

    If you are a smoker, your most significant contribution to environmental protection will get rid of your dependence.

    Increasing the number of landfills near parks and forest areas can help reduce the number of forest fires caused by cigarette butts.

    In the Netherlands, scientists have created a robot that removes cigarette butts on beaches (but everyone still hopes that people will clean up after themselves!).


    Photo by Oleg Andros.


    The corporate focus on litter (or small, not global things), amplified by the media, distorts our view of all environmental issues. The “Love Where You Live” campaign, launched in the UK in 2011 by Imperial Tobacco and other companies, seemed to play such a role. Do you want to know more? Check the full The Guardian review here.

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