Tobacco industry’s carbon footprint equivalent to that of entire countries
Backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a recent study recommends that the price of a packet of cigarettes should rise to reflect the wide-ranging environmental damage caused by the tobacco industry. Tobacco farms accounted for the loss of around 5 per cent of forests in parts of Asia and Africa, it stated.
In addition to the personal health risks associated with smoking cigarettes, the tobacco industry is harmful to the environment, contributing to everything from deforestation to water pollution. But cigarette production and consumption have continued to grow steadily over the last decade, with around six trillion cigarettes manufactured annually for an estimated one billion smokers.
Tobacco production is often more environmentally damaging than that of essential commodities such as food crops, a study by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control found. Many anti-smoking campaigns focus on the damage cigarettes can do to the body, but the damage done to the planet by the tobacco industry is often overlooked.
Dr Nicholas Hopkinson of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, who co-authored the report explained:
“As well as the death and disease caused by active and passive smoking, the public need to be aware of the environmental impact of the tobacco industry. Cigarettes should be thought of as an unethical product, not just as one that is harmful to individual consumers.”
The study found that the tobacco industry’s carbon footprint was comparable to that of entire countries. Annual tobacco production contributes almost 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions to climate change, which is about 0.2 per cent of the global total. This is equal to the emissions of Peru or Israel and more than twice that of Wales, the report found.
Professor Nick Voulvoulis, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College, who co-authored the report said:
“The environmental impacts of cigarette smoking, from cradle to grave, add significant pressures to the planet’s increasingly scarce resources and fragile ecosystems.”
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