Big Tobacco Makes a Fifth of Entire Airline Industry Pollution Each Year, Study Warns

Child in forward-facing car seat shown in a car where the driver is smoking 7 photos
Photo: Public service announcement in the UK
McLaren MP4/4 Driven By Ayrton SennaMcLaren MP4/4 Driven By Ayrton SennaMcLaren MP4/4 Driven By Ayrton SennaMcLaren MP4/4 Driven By Ayrton SennaMcLaren MP4/4 Driven By Ayrton SennaWilliams F1 Red 5 FW14 Display Car
The tobacco industry has a bigger impact on the planet than you might think. Instead of affecting just its customers, as well as those who are near them, it appears that tobacco companies are doing more harm than anyone would think at first glance.
As the World Health Organization noted, tobacco does not only kill eight million people a year but farming the plant impacts low and medium-income countries. Farming tobacco requires 22 billion tonnes of water each year while releasing 84 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Since we cannot imagine what a ton of CO2 looks like, not to mention 84 million, the folks over at the WHO have noted that these emissions alone are equivalent to a fifth of what the airline industry produces each year.

But there is more, WHO warns, as tobacco products are described as "the most littered item on the planet." Each cigarette butt has over 7,000 toxic chemicals, and those get in the soil or the ocean when they are irresponsibly thrown away by their users.

The worst part about the filters themselves is that they have plastic inside, microplastics to be specific, which makes them the second-biggest source of plastic pollution worldwide. Other alternatives to smoking involve discarding something that also uses plastic, as well as rare earth metals, and those products also involve harvesting tobacco.

The problem is not only that using tobacco leads to disastrous effects on human health, but it also affects farmland and forests, as well as the world's oceans. About 600 million trees are cut by the tobacco industry across the world each year, WHO notes, and the worst part is in low-income countries, where farmland that could have hosted crops of food has tobacco instead.

Mind you, attempting to switch the crop from tobacco to something else will not bring excellent results. While there are not that many studies on the matter, tobacco plantations are known to deplete more crucial nutrients from the soil than other crops. Do not quote us on that part, but it is important to understand that a farmer cannot shift their production overnight, like in Farmville, especially after they had a tobacco crop.

Dr. Ruediger Krech, the director of health promotion at WHO, has noted that an approximate 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our rivers, oceans, parks, sidewalks, beaches, and soil each year. Taxpayers end up footing the cleaning bill, while regulators are focused on making vehicles emit fewer grams of CO2 per kilometer.

An industry watchdog called STOP noted that the true environmental impact of the tobacco industry is equivalent to one of the large oil companies. As Andrew Rowell, lead author of the report, noted, "we need to talk about big tobacco the same way we talk about big oil as a cause of climate change."

Some European countries, such as Spain and France, as Euronews noted, have begun applying the cost of pollution to the industry by following the "Polluter Pays Principle."
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Editor's note: For illustration purposes only, the photo gallery shows racing cars that have liveries that involve tobacco companies.

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About the author: Sebastian Toma
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Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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