Everyone knows that tobacco is harmful to health, but there is less talk of the environmental damage caused by the tobacco industry. Tobacco production uses a lot of water, farmland and energy. The carbon footprint is big and the rainforest is being cut out of its way.
Tobacco also generates millions of tonnes of solid waste every year. Cigarette butts are an environmental poison. When thrown into the wild, toxic chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic and lead dissolve in the land or sea. Cigarette butts are everywhere because it is the most common rubbish in the world. Globally, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown into the environment every year. Forty per cent of all rubbish found on the world’s beaches is related to smoking.
So what is a cigarette butt made of? It could be imagined to be mostly paper, but in reality, the butt is cellulose acetate which is classified as plastic. It does not decompose or disappear into nature, but slowly turns into microplastic particles.
Don't throw tobacco into the wild!
Tobacco is grown in developing countries, where food cultivation, in particular, would be much more important than tobacco. Tobacco production causes poverty and hunger where help is most needed anyway. In addition, the cultivation of tobacco raises human rights issues. Women and child labour are commonly used in tobacco plantations.
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. In addition to nicotine, tobacco contains e.g. arsenic, cadmium, carbon monoxide, acetone and ammonia. Some of the chemicals come from the tobacco plant itself, but also from the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow tobacco. Almost 10 tons of wood is used to make one tonne of dry tobacco. Burning a box a day means felling 24 trees a year.