The World Health Organization has long warned about the health impacts of tobacco use, as the habit has been linked to a range of deadly illnesses such as cancer and chronic lung diseases. It is also blamed for more than 7 million deaths per year.
Tobacco And Environmental Damage
For the first time, however, the United Nations agency has linked tobacco use to damages to the environment. WHO said that tobacco waste contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment. It cited that smoke emissions contribute tons of toxicants, greenhouse gases, and human carcinogens that pollute the environment and pose risk to human health.
In a new report, WHO provided an overview of the environmental impacts of tobacco use.
"Tobacco waste ends up everywhere and it is a well-known public nuisance for many communities, especially those with few resources to remove it," the report reads.
"In addition to tobacco product waste, there are other waste products associated with tobacco use such as the 2 million tonnes of paper, ink, cellophane, foil and glue that are used in tobacco product packaging. This waste ends up everywhere, including on our streets, and in our drains, rivers and other aquatic environments. "
WHO Assistant Director-General Oleg Chestnov also said that besides polluting the air, cigarettes continue to cause damage to the environment in the form of non-biodegradable cigarette butts.
Impacts Of The Tobacco Industry On Environment
Chestnov said that the environmental damage caused by the tobacco industry goes far beyond the effects of cigarette smoke in the air. He cited that the growing of tobacco plants, as well as the manufacture of tobacco products and their delivery to retailers, have environmental effects that include the use of fossil fuels, deforestation, and the leaking and dumping of wastes into the environment.
The report pointed out that tobacco waste is the biggest type of litter by count worldwide, with between 10 billion and 15 billion cigarettes sold every day and disposed in the ecosystem. Cigarette butts likewise account for up to 40 percent of collected items in coastal and urban cleanups.
Measures Against Tobacco Use
Experts warned about the dangers of tobacco use and cited ways to combat this.
Chestnov said that the most effective but least used measure to control tobacco is by increasing the prices and tax of tobacco products. Governments can also ban advertising and sponsorship of tobacco and provide warnings about the harmful impacts of tobacco use. Researchers also found that testimonial warning labels can help deter people from smoking.
"Tobacco threatens us all," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement released on May 30, the eve of the World No Tobacco Day.
"By taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries' futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes."
A UN report released in January claimed that 8 million lives and $1 trillion could be saved yearly with effective implementation of tobacco policies.