From start to finish, the growing, manufacturing and inhalation process behind the tobacco product life cycle causes irreversible damage to our environment. It’s not just smokers and those around them who suffer from an overwhelming amount of pollution — it’s our forests, our freshwater streams and oceans and our climate that are taking a hit. There is indirect social and economic damage that is caused by tobacco cultivation, production, distribution, consumption and from the general waste that is left behind from these products. But, how deep do the roots of the environmental damage of tobacco really extend?
Growing and curing tobacco
Many forests in developing countries are cleared in order to make space for tobacco plantations. The wood from the trees is burned in order to help with the process of curing and this overwhelming amount of deforestation is a contributing cause of climate change, soil erosion, reduced soil fertility and disrupted water cycles. Studies show that for every 300 cigarettes that are produced, the wood of one tree is used to cure the leaves.
The manufacturing and production of tobacco
The processes that are involved with the manufacturing and distribution of cigarettes is detrimental to nature because, in order to sustain the life of the tobacco plant, it requires large amounts of energy, water and other resources.
The environmental damage of tobacco lies in some of the processes involved in the production process:
- The shredding and assembling process requires lots of energy and metals for the machines.
- The preparation and treatment process requires thousands of chemicals and chemical additives.
- Producing the rolling paper for the cigarettes generates a large amount of waste and is only possible due to large amounts of deforestation.
The distribution of tobacco
Carbon emissions are increased when the finished tobacco products get shipped between countries for distribution. Tons of energy is required to fuel trucks, ships and planes that transport the products from the production plants to worldwide retailers.
The consumption of tobacco
The environmental impact of tobacco that most people immediately think about is the litter and the lingering secondhand smoke that is left behind. The smoke that is generated from burning tobacco contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals and can continue to pollute our air even after the cigarette has been smoked down to the butt. Then, these butts can be found littered in our streets and storm drains, usually never to be properly discarded of by the people who smoked them.
Did you know that cigarette butts are the most littered item on earth?
How can you combat the environmental damage of tobacco?
If you’re a smoker who is wanting to pay the environment a little more respect, perhaps consider making the switch to vaping as an eco-friendlier nicotine solution? Why do you ask?
- There’s no secondhand smoke. E-cigarettes produce a vapor that’s made up of four to five primary ingredients (PG, VG, water, flavorings and sometimes nicotine).
- There’s no litter. Many old batteries and e-juice batteries can be cleaned and recycled.
- There’s less waste. Since many vaping devices are long-lasting and reusable, you simply need to replace the battery and e-juices as needed.
How do you avoid the environmental damages of tobacco? Tell us in the comments section below.