Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada, and stopping use is one of the best things to do to improve one’s health. The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2022 is ‘Tobacco - Threat to our Environment,’ starting from farming tobacco (cultivation) through to post-consumer waste.
Did you know approximately 90 per cent of tobacco farming occurs in low-income countries? The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated, “tobacco cultivation and curing are part of one of the most environmentally destructive agricultural practices in low-and middle-income countries.”
Unfortunately, people living in disadvantaged communities are impacted the most by the environmental and health harms from growing and curing tobacco. Forests are cleared to make room to grow tobacco plants, and trees are burned as fuel to dry or ‘cure’ tobacco leaves. In order to cure tobacco for 15 packs of cigarettes, it is estimated a whole tree is burned as fuel.
Cigarette butts are the most common litter found in urban and shoreline cleanups worldwide. It is estimated that an astounding 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded globally every year. They contain filters made of many tiny, plastic fibres. The plastic filters can take years to break down, and chemicals, including nicotine, in the butts leach into the environment and poison animals and plants. In addition, improperly discarded cigarette butts start forest fires in Canada every year.
The tobacco industry puts filters into cigarettes, which misleads users to believe they have a filtering benefit when they do not. Industry-developed vapour products are also adding to this hazardous environmental waste.
It is never too late to stop using tobacco products. A person’s body begins to heal within 20 minutes of not smoking. This year, learning about tobacco’s threat to our environmental health might be a reason to stop or reduce tobacco use.
Learn more about WHO's World No Tobacco Day 2022.
Contact the VCH Tobacco & Vapour Reduction Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.vch.ca/public-health/environmental-health-inspections/tobacco-vapour-products-control.