We constantly talk about the consequences of smoking tobacco for the human body. But what about the effects of smoking on the environment?
Unless you have been living on another planet for the last several years, you will most likely be aware that smoking, without doubt, can damage your personal health.
There are posters, adverts and placards everywhere, not to mention the graphic illustrations on cigarette and tobacco packs themselves.
The proof inconclusive and damning indeed, the consequences of smoking damage almost every organ in your body.
Cigarette smoke contains roughly 4,000 chemicals, and many of them extremely toxic. A study in 2004 estimated cigarette smoke to be 10 times more dangerous than diesel fumes to both humans and our environment.
Smoking can give you cancer of the lungs, stomach, mouth and throat and liver. Smoking causes your skin to age prematurely and hugely elevates your chances of having a stroke. Even the non-fatal consequences of smoking are pretty extreme, like bad breath, sore gums, and infertility.
So, we are all agreed that smoking is bad for us as human beings, but what about the environment?
Many smokers are of the opinion that their smoking is only affecting themselves. They are avid protesters against climate change and deforestation but still smoke.
Well, read on to understand why the consequences of smoking are terrible and devastating for all of us.
The consequences of smoking and tobacco industry for the environment
From the very start, the growing of tobacco is harmful to the environment in several ways. Firstly, many tobacco farms are based near rainforest areas. The land is readily available and the conditions are perfect for the tobacco crop.
Unfortunately, the rainforest is simply seen as an area to be cleared so that the tobacco crop can be grown. Huge machines are used to flatten all flora in the required area. Massive fires are needed to burn off the unwanted vegetation.
Pesticides and other chemicals to enhance the crop growth are then sprayed on the cleared ground. More rainforest and wooded area are then cleared to supply the timber for construction materials and the wood to burn on the fires needed to cure the crop once harvested.
But it doesn’t stop there. Even more, wood is harvested to make the paper tubes and necessary packaging so that your cigarette arrives in your hand in perfect condition.
According to the estimates, 200,000 hectares of prime rainforest are cleared annually just in the tobacco industry. This equates to a massive 2-4% of global deforestation.
The slash and burn of felled trees mean that huge fires are needed to dispose of the unwanted trees. This is another addition to global warming and climate change. Trees are some of the earth’s most efficient absorbers of dangerous gasses like carbon monoxide.
Therefore, the fewer trees we have, the more gasses we have in the atmosphere.
The growing area becomes less fertile due to the intense style of farming and no crop rotation. Then, the land is abandoned and is in danger of desertification. It is when the soil erosion and lack of essential nutrients like potassium and nitrogen in the soil can leave whole areas without any vegetation at all.
There are also enormous animal casualties as the forests are cleared and their habitat is destroyed, meaning less food is left for the local populace.
Cigarette butts and the pollution
One of the end products of smoking a cigarette is the discarded cigarette butt. These alone contribute to a massive pollution problem. The cigarette butt or filter is made from cellulose acetate, which is a kind of plastic. It is designed to make smoking easier and to reduce the irritation caused by inhaling tobacco smoke.
This fact alone is thought to encourage smokers. Many still believe that the filter will remove the harmful elements from the inhaled smoke, although this is incorrect.
Cigarette butts are classified as one of the most common articles of personal litter in the world. They amount to almost 30% of all litter worldwide. In Britain, it is estimated that around 200 million cigarette butts are littered each and every day.
Discarded cigarette butts are a major contributing factor in forest fires around the world.
It is estimated that 17,000 people are killed in these totally preventable fires every year.
Moreover, over 10% of the world’s forest fires are caused by carelessly discarded cigarette butts. This is a damning statistic as human carelessness is responsible for these fires. The truth is that they could, with just a little thought, be prevented completely.
The damage caused by forest fires to both human and animal is enormous, with both property and habitat being totally destroyed.
Our waterways also come under attack from the cigarette butt and because they are non-biodegradable. This means that they will stay in our environment indefinitely, so the damage is long term.
When a cigarette is smoked via a butt or filter, the toxic smoke is passed through the filter. The residue will remain there until an exterior force like water releases it, causing the toxins to leach out into the land or sea. The butt contains heavy metals like cadmium, barium, and lead and these can be fatal to any animal or fish that might accidentally ingest it.
Dead seabirds and mammals have been found to have large deposits of cigarette butts in their stomachs. They are thought to ingest them thinking that they are a food source.
The butts may also swell up in the stomach giving the animal or bird the impression that its stomach is full. In this way, much of the affected wildlife starves slowly to death.
Other types of waste associated with smoking and tobacco industry
As an addition to the 5 trillion discarded cigarette butts, there are also 74,000 cigar tips, 36,000 cigarette packs and 18,000 lighters to take into consideration.
Once these have been littered, then the cost of clearing them up needs to be addressed. According to the estimates, it reaches over £1 billion per year in Britain alone.
This is a huge cost which, for the most part, falls on the taxpaying man in the street. Still, there is a move to get the huge tobacco industry to bear the cost. It has even been suggested that smokers themselves should contribute via higher priced products.
Among other consequences of smoking and tobacco industry for the environment are the enormous costs of transportation. It starts with the use of the huge plant to clear rainforests and running through the lorries that take the freshly harvested tobacco to the drying sheds and on to the planes and ships needed to transport the tobacco products worldwide.
All this huge carbon footprint impacting on global warming. It also affects the ozone layer in the atmosphere, which protects us from the harmful rays of the sun.
Smoking’s Effect On The Environment Infographic
All in all, the production and consumption of cigarettes and tobacco products is one of the largest contributing factors to global warming and damage to the planet. Given these devastating consequences of smoking, there are many anti-smoking regulations now in force.
In fact, several countries are now banning smoking in public places not just indoors but outside as well. Developed countries are leading the way with newer laws and stricter enforcement.
However, the huge amounts of money generated within the tobacco industry mean that these companies have enormous power to combat new legislation, which, in turn, slows down any progress.
*This infographic was brought to us by https://greyhaze.co.uk/