Tobacco contributes to the majority of plastic pollution on the planet

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO), released on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, celebrated on May 31, shows that the tobacco industry’s damage to the environment is vast and growing, increasing pressure on already scarce resources and the fragile ecosystems of the planet.

In addition to contributing to the deaths of more than 8 million people every year, tobacco “destroys the environment, harming human health, through cultivation, production, distribution, consumption and waste”, says the report. .

Cigarettes are produced with “single-use” plastic that takes decades to degrade and that, in the process, releases more than 7,000 types of toxic elements into the environment. Every year, smokers put out an average of 800,000 tons of cigarettes, leaving enough butts to cover New York’s Central Park.

In addition, cigarettes are not considered “disposable plastics” and, therefore, consumption is not prohibited. But the impacts on the environment are high. According to a study published by the The Guardianpartially digested cigarette butts have been found in 70% of seabirds and 30% of sea turtles.

According to the WHO, 600 million trees are cut down to produce cigarettes, 84 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted – which contributes to the increase in global temperature – and 22 billion liters of water – equivalent to 8.8 million of Olympic swimming pools.


According to the report, tobacco affects the environment at all stages of its life cycle, from production to consumption. The cultivation, production and even use of cigarettes poisons the water, soil, beaches and streets to begin with. In addition to containing chemicals, it releases various toxic residues and microplastics, mainly from cigarette butts.

Also in the production of cigarettes, solid waste is generated, contaminated with nicotine and other chemicals, which also contributes to soil and water pollution. And tobacco smoke, during consumption, accelerates the increase in emissions of polluting gases into the atmosphere. Furthermore, two-thirds of every cigarette smoked is thrown on the ground, leaving around 400 million kilograms of toxic waste on the ground.

There are also other residues associated with the use of tobacco that pollute the planet, such as the packaging itself, paper, paints and even aluminum foil.

However, not only cigarettes leave a trail of plastic pollution in the environment. In Asia, smokeless chewing tobacco is sold in plastic packaging. It’s the vapinge-cigarettes and nicotine-based products are creating a new wave of pollution, from the mining of materials needed to make batteries, to metal waste or plastics dumped on land and water.

*Reproduction of this content is prohibited.

Translated to english by RJ983

From Brazil, by EBC News

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