We all know about the negative effects of tobacco on our health but have you ever stopped to wonder how this habit affects the health of our planet? This year, on World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging us to look at the bigger picture and think about the environmental impact of tobacco.

Tobacco use kills. It’s the single most preventable cause of death that’s responsible for the loss of over 8 million lives each year. Since 1988, the WHO has used World No Tobacco Day to highlight the harmful effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products on our overall health.

The theme of this year’s campaign is: “Tobacco: Threat to our environment,” and its aim is to make us aware of the environmental impact of tobacco, from how it’s made to the toxic waste it generates. It’s also an opportunity to expose how the tobacco industry is poisoning our planet.

How can tobacco be so bad for the environment? Here are some insights from the WHO into what happens ‘behind the scenes’ before a pack of twenties reaches our corner café:

  • Land degradation: Around 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed for growing tobacco each year. That’s approximately 7 million football fields!
  • Deforestation: Growing tobacco causes deep and permanent damage through deforestation – the destruction of forects. It destroys local wildlife and ecosystems, causes soil erosion, disrupts water cycles, and contributes to climate change.
  • Greenhouse emissions: The tobacco industry contributes 84 megatons of carbon dioxide each year.
  • Depletion of reserves: The manufacture, packaging and shipping of tobacco products places demands on fuel, which depletes fossil fuel reserves. This accounts for around 20% of tobacco’s contribution to climate change.
  • Toxic waste: Each year 4.5 trillion cigarette butts that are not disposed of properly end up creating 1.69 billion pounds of toxic waste, poisoning our water and soil and releasing harmful chemicals into our air.

The environmental footprint left by tobacco stretches across its entire supply chain. It affects people and their health, and it’s a threat to our planet. So on World No Tobacco day, commit to quit – for 24 hours at least, and see if you can take it from there! No tobacco means healthier people and a healthier planet.