Tobacco Industry’s Negative Impact on Environmental Health

ONONDAGA COUNTY, APRIL 19, 2024 – Earth Day comes around every year on April 22 and is used as a time to acknowledge the health of our environment and doing what we can to help. Clean-up events often happen in various settings such as parks, beaches, and schools. Unfortunately, tobacco products are a prevalent source of litter.

Not only does tobacco have a negative impact on our health but the health of the environment as well. Litter from tobacco products ends up polluting the air, water and land with toxic chemicals, carcinogens and heavy metals. Cigarette filters are the number one most common polluter on the planet, with a rough estimate of 4.5 trillion filters disposed of each year. Furthermore, plastic from tobacco waste is not biodegradable, which leads to the contamination of the land and water supplies. Within the past decade e-cigarettes/vapes have gained popularity and as a result about 150 million devices are thrown out every year. The lithium-ion batteries contained in e-cigarettes are noted to harm the environment.

Another cause of environmental harm from the tobacco industry is the production of tobacco itself. Land is cleared by burning to make room for tobacco plantations, which leads to an increase of greenhouse gases. The production and consumption of tobacco releases a significant amount of CO2 that is equivalent to driving 17 million gas powered cars. After a few years the soil is unable to support plant growth and the cycle is repeated. Tobacco production uses more water, wood, and pesticides than any other crop. Despite the impact of growing tobacco, the tobacco industry promotes what they do to reduce the litter they have caused, which is misleading. This is called green washing, and it is done to make themselves and their products appear environmentally friendly despite the harmful impact they have on the environment.

What can be done to counteract the actions of the tobacco industry? Reach out to local, state, and federal representatives and ask them what they are doing to hold the tobacco industry accountable. In honor of earth day, participate in local clean ups to help remove tobacco litter from our community.