By now we all know that smoking is harmful to our health: more than 16 million Americans currently have a disease that was caused by smoking, and almost half a million people die every year because of smoking-related diseases and effects.
But did you know that cigarettes are just as bad for the health of the Earth as well? Between tobacco farming, cigarette smoke, and cigarette pollution, the air, land, and sea are all negatively impacted by cigarettes.
Keep reading to learn the scary details of how cigarettes can seriously damage the environment, and here are some tips on how to stop it.
Negative Effects of Cigarettes for the Environment
As we said earlier, this isn’t a simple case of “cigarette smoke is bad for the air” (although, that is a key component of smoking pollution). Let’s look at all of the many ways that cigarettes harm the environment.
Tobacco and Deforestation
In order to make cigarettes, tobacco must be grown and cured. In order to do this, massive areas of forest are cleared to make room to grow the tobacco. This is a leading cause of deforestation that leads to 600 million trees being cut down annually for tobacco growth, which is equal to almost 5% of global deforestation just from tobacco.
Deforestation leads to a number of negative environmental implications, including habitat loss for plants, animals, and people as well as a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation.
Not only does the tobacco industry lead to masses of trees being cut down, but it also requires wood to be burned for the tobacco curing process. The burning of thousands of trees leads to even more greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to global warming.
Harms the Natural Soil
Tobacco leeches the soil of naturally occurring nutrients and minerals that are necessary for native plant growth. Without these nutrients and minerals, natural plants fail to survive, which is harmful to the native environment, flora, and fauna.
Not only will tobacco growth take away essential chemicals, but it also adds harmful ones. Almost all tobacco farms use harmful pesticides like methyl bromide. This pesticide not only causes serious health issues for humans, but it also can kill animals, seep into the soil for years, poison nearby water sources, and lead to the breakdown of the ozone layer.
Here’s the portion you’re probably most familiar with: cigarette smoke. But before we get there, let’s remember that the smoke produced during the curing process of tobacco also leads to air pollution as well.
Cigarette smoke contains over 6,000 different chemicals, over 60 of those are known carcinogens. Every time you light up, you’re turning clean air into air filled with harmful chemicals and toxins.
Cigarette smoke is also one of the leading causes of nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane build-up in the atmosphere, all of which contribute to global warming and climate change. Cigarettes lead to 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Cigarette Pollution: Land
Think about every sidewalk you’ve ever walked on: chances are you see at least 5 discarded cigarette butts. What about on top of trashcans? In the sand at the beach? On the floor of bars? In the streets?
Cigarette butts are by far the number one item discarded as trash/litter in the world. They’re non-biodegradable and can build-up as trash throughout the world.
Cigarette waste is worse than other litter because of all the toxins within the butts and cigarettes themselves. When they’re tossed on the ground, in the street, in the forest, etc, the toxins will soak into nearby soil and water, adding dangerous toxins and contaminants to the environment.
Cigarette Pollution: Oceans
Cigarette butts are also the number one source of ocean trash. The toxins, chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides within these cigarette butts essentially poison the water for aquatic life.
One study showed that a cigarette can kill half of the fish that are exposed to its toxins. And with 7 billion cigarette butts littered every year, you can only imagine the huge environmental impact they’ll have on our oceans and the life within them.
Cigarettes lead to thousands of both home and forest fires every year. Discarded cigarette butts that are still lit can easily cause a huge and devastating fire.
These fires lead to massive amounts of deaths in humans, animals, and natural plants and trees.
What You Can Do
So what can you do to prevent cigarettes from having a lasting impact on the environment?
Switch to More Environmentally Friendly Options
If you’re a smoker or are slowly easing your way to quitting, you should switch to a more environmentally friendly way of getting your nicotine fix. You can switch to nicotine patches or gum.
Or you could switch to electronic cigarettes. You can try the Suorin Drop or the Juul, both of which are popular options that are more environmentally friendly than classic cigarettes.
Quit Smoking Altogether
However, even using these smoking alternatives still contributes to the tobacco industry. This won’t limit the impact of tobacco farming that we discussed earlier.
The best possible thing you can do to prevent cigarette pollution is to quit smoking. This will cut off financial support of a harmful industry and reduce waste, not to mention that it’s much better for your health.
Cigarette Pollution: Final Thoughts
Cigarettes and the tobacco industry have long been known to be harmful to our health. But cigarette pollution also has a huge impact on the Earth, as you’ve learned in this article.
Maintaining a healthy environment is not only important for the planet, but for our health as well. Climate change and greenhouse gasses can be harmful to our health as well, not to mention for the wildlife that we inhabit this world with.
Want more tips on going green and being as environmentally friendly as possible? Check out our blog.