WHO says tobacco industry poisons the planet, backs ‘polluter pays principle’ and cigarette filter ban
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday revealed new information on the extent to which tobacco harms both the environment and human health, calling for action to make the industry more responsible for the destruction that she causes.
Each year, the tobacco industry costs the world more than 8 million human lives, 600 million trees, 200,000 hectares of land, 22 billion tons of water and 84 million tons of CO2.
The majority of tobacco is grown in low- and middle-income countries, where water and agricultural land are often desperately needed to produce food for the region. Instead, they are used to grow deadly tobacco plants, while more and more land is deforested.
The WHO report “Tobacco: Poisoning our planet” highlights that the industry’s carbon footprint from the production, processing and transport of tobacco is equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced each year by the industry. commercial air transport, which further contributes to global warming.
“Tobacco products are the most polluted item on the planet, containing over 7,000 toxic chemicals, which leach into our environment when discarded. About 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, sidewalks, parks, soils and beaches every year,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.
Products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes also contribute to the accumulation of plastic pollution. Cigarette filters contain microplastics and are the second form of plastic pollution in the world.
Despite tobacco industry marketing, there is no evidence that filters have proven health benefits. The WHO is calling on policymakers to treat cigarette filters as what they are, single-use plastics, and to consider banning cigarette filters to protect public health and the environment.
The costs of cleaning up abandoned tobacco products fall on taxpayers, rather than the industry that creates the problem. Every year, it costs China about $2.6 billion and India about $766 million. The cost for Brazil and Germany amounts to more than 200 million dollars.
Countries like France and Spain and cities like San Francisco, California in the United States have taken a stand. In line with the polluter pays principle, they have successfully implemented “extended producer responsibility legislation” which makes the tobacco industry responsible for eliminating the pollution it creates.
The WHO urges countries and cities to follow this example, as well as to help tobacco growers switch to sustainable crops, implement strong tobacco taxes (which could also include an environmental tax) and to provide support services to help people quit smoking.