WHO warns of the environmental impact of the tobacco industry


Tobacco use is a well-documented threat to global health, endangering the lives of its users and those around them, and even those involved in its production.
New information on the extent to which tobacco harms both the environment and human health was recently revealed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Every year, the tobacco industry costs the world more than 8 million human lives, 600 million trees, 200,000 hectares of land, 22 billion tons of water and 84 million tons of CO2, according to WHO .
The majority of tobacco is grown in low- and middle-income countries, where water and agricultural land are often desperately needed to produce food for the region.
Instead, they are used to grow deadly tobacco plants, while more and more land is deforested.
The WHO report “Tobacco: Poisoning our planet” highlights that the industry’s carbon footprint from the production, processing and transport of tobacco is equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced each year by the industry. commercial air transport, thus contributing to global warming.
“Tobacco products are the most polluted item on the planet, containing over 7,000 toxic chemicals, which leach into our environment when discarded. About 4.5 tonnes of cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, sidewalks, parks, soils and beaches every year,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.
Products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes also contribute to the accumulation of plastic pollution. Cigarette filters contain microplastics and are the second form of plastic pollution in the world.
Despite tobacco industry marketing, there is no evidence that filters have proven health benefits.
The WHO has therefore called on policymakers to treat cigarette filters as what they are, single-use plastics, and to consider banning cigarette filters to protect public health and the environment.
The costs of cleaning up abandoned tobacco products fall on taxpayers, rather than the industry that creates the problem. Every year, it costs China about $2.6 billion and India about $766 million. The cost for Brazil and Germany amounts to more than 200 million dollars.
Countries like France and Spain and cities like San Francisco, California in the United States have taken a stand. In line with the polluter pays principle, they have successfully implemented “extended producer responsibility legislation” which makes the tobacco industry responsible for eliminating the pollution it creates.
The WHO has urged countries and cities to follow this example, as well as help tobacco growers switch to sustainable crops, implement strong tobacco taxes (which could also include an environmental tax) and to provide support services to help people quit smoking.
Health experts say risks for tobacco users and handlers include cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Smoking also increases the risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases and immune system problems, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Exposure to second-hand smoke contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among non-smoking adults and 400 infant deaths each year. Second-hand smoke causes strokes, lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults.
Clearly, the WHO has sounded the alarm about the environmental impact caused by the tobacco industry across the world.


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