The following is the statement of Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of SEATCA:
“The tobacco industry must pay not only for the seven million annual deaths it causes worldwide but also for the devastating harms it causes the environment.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview released last year puts it right when it said that “From start to finish, the tobacco life cycle is overwhelmingly polluting and damaging process”.
The tobacco industry harms the environment in the following ways:
- An estimated 11.4 million metric tons of wood are required annually for drying (curing) tobacco, which works out to about 1 tree for every 300 cigarettes. Curing was reported to be the leading cause of demand for indigenous wood in tobacco growing countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. Costs of wood for fuel and renting or buying land are often not factored in when assessing the profitability of tobacco growing.
- Tobacco plants require intensive use of fertilizers because they absorb more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than other major food and cash crops; meaning tobacco depletes soil fertility more rapidly.
- About 1 billion smokers consume an estimated 6.25 trillion cigarettes worldwide. Tobacco smoke from cigarettes globally release significant amounts of toxicants and pollutants directly into the environment.
- Between 340 and 680 million kilograms of tobacco waste are released into the environment each year. Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste globally and are the most frequent item of litter picked up on beaches and water edges worldwide. Cigarette filters, made of non-biodegradable cellulose acetate, are the main component of cigarette butt waste.
- Tobacco product waste also contain over 7000 toxic chemicals, including carcinogens, which lead into and accumulate in the environment. Harmful chemicals such as nicotine, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals leach from discarded tobacco product waste, and can be acutely toxic to aquatic organisms such as fish.
The tobacco industry should not be allowed to get away scot-free. They should, at the very least, be required to compensate for the environmental harms they cause to reduce the long-term, global environmental impact caused by their business.”
5 June 2018
- Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview – http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/255574/9789241512497-eng.pdf?sequence=1
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.