Environmental impacts of the tobacco industry - a survey of the research situation 2023
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Tobaksfakta, Stockholm, Sweden
Publication date: 2023-10-08
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Niclas Malmberg   

Tobaksfakta, Stockholm, Sweden
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2023;9(Supplement 2):A7
Some sectors of the tobacco industry have been keen to position themselves as active in reducing the negative environmental impact they cause. All attempts by tobacco companies to reduce their impact on the environment are of course welcome. But comparing what the companies say with a survey of the research of today makes clear the companies only address a few of their environmental impacts. When it comes to deforetration, climate change, impoverishment of agricultural land and impacts on biological diversity, the tobacco industry have a very negative impact. What stands clear is that there is no such thing as environmentally friendly tobacco: • Tobacco cultivation occupies extensive areas of arable land better used for food production. • Tobacco cultivation destroys the land by causing erosion, lowered groundwater levels, nutrient depletion and loss of important terrestrial organisms. • The extensive use of pesticides causes health problems for tobacco growers and affects surrounding agricultural and aquatic environments, not least in the form of reduced biological diversity. • Tobacco growers are at risk of contracting “Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS)” from skin contact with nicotine. The 1.3 million children under the age of 14 who work in tobacco farms are particularly vulnerable. • The utilization of new arable land as well as the use of firewood for tobacco curing causes extensive deforestation, and thus also a reduction of biological diversity. • All stages of tobacco production impact on our climate, from deforestation to carbon dioxide emissions during manufacture and transport. • Production gives rise to large volumes of waste, some of it hazardous, which risks being handled in substandard ways when tobacco companies move production facilities into countries with weak environmental legislation. • Production involves extensive water consumption, which among other things depletes groundwater resources in arid areas. • Even after a cigarette has been extinguished, there is a continued release of cotinine and other toxins that form in thirdhand smoke (created when smoke settles on textiles, etc.). • Not only are cigarette butts and other tobacco- related products the most common litter in our cities, they also contain a wide range of environmental toxins, such as cadmium.
The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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