- Adrian Lepiten
The World Health Organization Issued Warnings About the Environmental Impact of the Tobacco Industry
Tobacco smoking is one of the many threats to global health. It will put the lives of the users and those around them in significant danger. However, the World Health Organization recently released new data on the extent to which tobacco does not only harm human health but also the environment. They're urging action to make businesses accountable for the damage it causes.
Tobacco smoking is one of the many threats to global health. It will put the lives of the users and those around them in significant danger. However, the World Health Organization recently released new data on the extent to which tobacco does not only harm human health but also the environment.
Most of the tobacco is grown in low and middle-income countries, where water and farmland are in short supply. Instead of using farmland for food, its being used to grow deadly tobacco plants.
According to the WHO report "Tobacco: Poisoning our Planet," the carbon footprint of the tobacco industry from production, processing, and transportation is equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced by the commercial airline industry each year.
“Tobacco products are the most littered item on the planet, containing over 7000 toxic chemicals, which leech into our environment when discarded. Roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil, and beaches every year,” said Dr. Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.
Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes significantly contribute to the increase in plastic pollution. Cigarette filters are the second most common source of microplastic contamination in the world.
The costs of cleaning up littered tobacco products are carried by taxpayers, rather than the industry that's creating the problem. The WHO urges policymakers to treat cigarette filters like single-use plastics and consider banning them to protect public health and the environment.
The United States has taken a position. They have successfully enacted the "extended producer responsibility legislation". It holds the tobacco industry accountable for cleaning up their pollution, in accordance with the Polluter Pays Principle.
In addition, the WHO encourages countries and cities to follow this example by assisting tobacco farmers to make a transition to sustainable crops. Mainly by enacting significant tobacco taxes (that could also include an environmental tax), and providing support services to help people quit smoking.