The tobacco industry has a significant impact on public health. It also contributes to climate change by causing mountains of pollution and emission. Rudiger Krech (WHO director for health promotion) stated that the tobacco industry is "one among the largest polluters we are aware of". He presented a report with "quite catastrophic" conclusions.
The report, "Tobacco, Poison to Our Planet", examines the entire sector's environmental footprint, from the production of tobacco products, to the consumption and waste, as well as the impact on the environment. According to the report, 600 million trees have been lost by the industry. However, the sector uses around 200,000 hectares and 22 billion tonnes of annual water. It also emits approximately 84 million tonnes CO2 each year.
Rudiger Krech continues, "Tobacco products are the most frequently discarded litter on the globe. They contain more than 71,000 chemical compounds that, once discarded are released into nature." He points out that each of the estimated 4.5 trillion cigarettes butts that endup in nature each year could pollute as much as 100 liters water. Green tobacco sickness is a form nicotine poisoning that affects the skin and can be fatal.
Rudiger Krech says that growers are in constant contact with tobacco leaves and consume as much nicotine as 50 cigarettes per day. He also points out the large number of children employed by the sector. He says, "Imagine a 12-year old being exposed to 50 cigarettes per day." The report states that tobacco is commonly grown in poor countries where water and cultivated land can be scarce and where these crops often take over crucial food production. Globally, tobacco cultivation contributes to deforestation of about 5%.
The transportation and processing of tobacco also contributes to a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to one-fifth the carbon footprint of flying. The WHO warns against tobacco products, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes. These contribute significantly to plastic pollution.
Microplastics can be found in cigarettes filters, which contain trace amounts of microplastics. These small pieces are often found in oceans all over the globe, including the Mariana Trench. This is the second-largest source of plastic pollution. world.