High Environmental Cost of Tobacco

Smoking kills 7 million people a year, and it scars the planet through deforestation, pollution and littering.

Details of the environmental cost of tobacco are revealed in a study released Wednesday by the World Health Organization, adding to the well-known costs to global health, which translate to a yearly loss of $1.4 trillion in health-care expenses and lost productivity.

From crop to pack, tobacco commands an intensive use of resources and forces the release of harmful chemicals in the soil and waterways, as well as significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Its leftovers linger, as tobacco litter is the biggest component of litter worldwide.

“Tobacco not only produces lung cancer in people, but it is a cancer to the lungs of the Earth,” said Dr. Armando Peruga, who previously coordinated the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative and now works as a consultant. He reviewed the new report for the WHO.

Commercial tobacco farming is a worldwide industry that involves 124 countries and occupies 4.3 million hectares of agricultural land. About 90% of it takes place in low-income countries, with China, Brazil and India as the largest producers.

Because tobacco is often a monocrop — grown without being rotated with other crops — the plants and the soil are weak in natural defenses and require larger amounts of chemicals for growth and protection from pests.

“Tobacco also takes away a lot of nutrients from the soil and requires massive amounts of fertilizer, a process that leads to degradation of the land and desertification, with negative consequences for biodiversity and wildlife,” Peruga said.

The use of chemicals directly impacts the health of farmers, 60% to 70% of whom are women. This is especially prominent in low- and middle-income countries, where some compounds that are banned in high-income countries are still used.

Did you know? 300 cigarettes = one tree

Farming also uses a surprisingly large amount of wood, rendering tobacco a driver of deforestation, one of the leading causes of climate change.

About 11.4 million metric tons of wood are utilized annually for curing: the drying of the tobacco leaf, which is achieved through various methods, including wood fires. That’s the equivalent of one tree for every 300 cigarettes, or 1.5 cartons.

This adds to the impact of plantations on forest land, which the study describes as a significant cause for concern, citing “evidence of substantial, and largely irreversible, losses of trees and other plant species cause by tobacco farming.”

Deadly gases

In 2012, 967 million daily smokers consumed approximately 6.25 trillion cigarettes worldwide, the WHO estimates.

“That means about 6,000 metric tons of formaldehyde and 47,000 metric tons of nicotine are released into the environment,” Peruga said.

Tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals, at least 250 of which are known to be harmful. It also contains climate-warming carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides. “The combination of greenhouse gases from combustion is equivalent to about 1.5 million vehicles driven annually,” Peruga said.

Secondhand smoke is particularly deadly: It contains twice as much nicotine and 147 times more ammonia than so-called mainstream smoke, leading to close to 1 million deaths annually, 28% of them children.

Some of these pollutants remain in the environment (and our homes) as “third-hand smoke,” accumulating in dust and surfaces indoors, and in landfills. Some, like nicotine, even resist treatment, polluting waterways and potentially contaminating water used for consumption, the study notes.

Non-biodegradable litter

Tobacco litter is the most common type of litter by count worldwide.

“We calculate that two-thirds of every cigarette ends up as litter,” Peruga said.

The litter is laced with chemicals including arsenic and heavy metals, which can end up in the water supply. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable, and tossing one on the ground is still considered a socially acceptable form of littering in many countries.

The WHO estimates that between 340 million and 680 million kilograms of tobacco waste are thrown away every year, and cigarette butts account for 30% to 40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.

“In addition to that, there are 2 million tons of paper, foil, ink and glue used for the packaging,” Peruga said.

A way forward?

Even though smoking is declining globally, it is increasing in some regions, such as the eastern Mediterranean and Africa. China is a world leader both in production (44%) and consumption, with 10 times more cigarettes smoked than in any other nation.

Every stage of the production of a cigarette has negative effects on the environment and the people who are involved in manufacturing tobacco products, even before the health of smokers and non-smokers is affected.

“Tobacco threatens us all,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a note. “It exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air.”


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World No Tobacco Day 2017: Beating tobacco for health, prosperity, the environment and national development

Action to stamp out tobacco use can help countries prevent millions of people falling ill and dying from tobacco-related disease, combat poverty and, according to a first-ever WHO (World Health Organization) report, reduce large-scale environmental degradation.

On World No Tobacco Day 2017, WHO is highlighting how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide, and is calling on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures. These include banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Tobacco’s health and economic costs

Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$ 1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.

“Tobacco threatens us all,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air.”

Dr Chan adds: “But by taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes.”

All countries have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to strengthen universal peace and eradicate poverty. Key elements of this agenda include implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and by 2030 reducing by one third premature death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart and lung diseases, cancer, and diabetes, for which tobacco use is a key risk factor.

Tobacco scars the environment

The first-ever WHO report, Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview, also shows the impact of this product on nature, including:

  • Tobacco waste contains over 7000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including human carcinogens.
  • Tobacco smoke emissions contribute thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants, and greenhouse gases to the environment. And tobacco waste is the largest type of litter by count globally.
  • Up to 10 billion of the 15 billion cigarettes sold daily are disposed in the environment.
  • Cigarette butts account for 30–40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.

Tobacco threatens women, children, and livelihoods

Tobacco threatens all people, and national and regional development, in many ways, including:

  • Poverty: Around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10% of total household expenditure – meaning less money for food, education and healthcare.
  • Children and education: Tobacco farming stops children attending school. 10%–14% of children from tobacco-growing families miss class because of working in tobacco fields.
  • Women: 60%–70% of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals.
  • Health: Tobacco contributes to 16% of all noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) deaths.

Taxation: a powerful tobacco control tool

“Many governments are taking action against tobacco, from banning advertising and marketing, to introducing plain packaging for tobacco products, and smoke-free work and public places,” says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health. “But one of the least used, but most effective, tobacco control measures to help countries address development needs is through increasing tobacco tax and prices.”

Governments collect nearly US$ 270 billion in tobacco excise tax revenues each year, but this could increase by over 50%, generating an additional US$ 141 billion, simply from raising taxes on cigarettes by just US$ 0.80 per pack (equivalent to one international dollar) in all countries. Increased tobacco taxation revenues will strengthen domestic resource mobilization, creating the fiscal space needed for countries to meet development priorities under the 2030 Agenda.

“Tobacco is a major barrier to development globally;” says Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention on NCDs. “Tobacco-related death and illness are drivers of poverty, leaving households without breadwinners, diverting limited household resources to purchase tobacco products rather than food and school materials, and forcing many people to pay for medical expenses.”

“But action to control it will provide countries with a powerful tool to protect their citizens and futures,” Dr Bettcher adds.

World Health Organization notes

Tobacco-related illness is one of the biggest public health threats the world faces, killing more than 7 million people a year. But tobacco use is one of the largest preventable causes of noncommunicable diseases.

Tobacco control represents a powerful tool in improving health in communities and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG target 3.4 is to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030, including cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes.

Another SDG target, 3.a, calls for implementation of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The WHO FCTC entered into force in 2005, and its Parties are obliged to take a number of steps to reduce demand and supply for tobacco products. Actions addressed in the Convention include protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke; banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; banning sales to minors; requiring health warnings on tobacco packaging; promoting tobacco cessation; increasing tobacco taxes; and creating a national coordinating mechanism for tobacco control. There are 180 Parties to the Convention.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Garwood
WHO Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 15 78
Mobile: +41 79 603 72 94
Email: garwoodp@who.int

Christian Lindmeier
WHO Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 1948
Mobile: +41 79 500 6552
Email: lindmeierch@who.int

Website link Click Here

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Can cities and counties pass stronger smoking regulations?

According to the Freedom to Breathe amendments to the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act which went into effect on October 1, 2007, local governments can adopt more stringent measures to protect individuals from second hand smoke.  To read the Freedom to Breath Act in it’s entirety, click here.

In Philadelphia, farmers’ markets have already adopted the smoke free policy. 

Why is this policy needed?  By selling locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods, farmers’ markets encourage the community to eat healthy. A smoke-free policy at farmers’ markets will go a step further by also promoting other healthy behaviors by not allowing smoking. The policy will serve to protect and enhance air quality and contribute to the health and well-being of all employees and the public. 

What are the benefits of the policy?  The smoke-free policy will help protect children and adults from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, create a cleaner environment, lessen cigarette butt pollution and reduce the risk of fire.  And, most importantly, the policy will help in reducing smoking rates in Philadelphia and encourage smokers to quit.  To read more about Philadelphia’s non-smoking policy at farmers’ market, click here.

Some local business in Kanabec County and Partners in Healthy Living have discussed the possibility of adopting a non-smoking policy at local farmers’ markets by posting non smoking signs. 

For a list of local farmers’ markets, click here.

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Parents, Educate Yourselves About Drugs

Boise Police Alcohol Compliance Officer Jermaine Galloway speaks to a wide range of audiences about the latest trends in drug use. He spoke to police officers at the Toward Zero Death Conference in St. Cloud, MN on November 15, 2013. In an article and video published by Idaho Statesman, he speaks to parents. If you don’t know common drug terms such as “dabbing,” “double cup,” “pharm party,” or “molly,” read this article and watch Galloway’s video. He takes you through a teenager’s bedroom and will show you drug paraphernalia and drug references on t-shirts sold near you. Click here to read Galloway’s article.

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Talk about drugs, alcohol in back to school prep

This was a column written by Sara Rossow and published in the Kanabec County Times on August 15th, 2013. Click here to view the original column.

As the summer days become shorter and the “Back to School” sale signs appear in the storefront windows, families begin to make preparations to return to the routine and structure of the school year.

Parents must purchase school supplies, find the “right” pair of sneakers, fill out a ream of school forms, and begin talking with their children about the upcoming school year.

We might talk with our kids about our expectations for their grades, about which activities they will participate in after school, and maybe even talk about “big” issues like bullying or being a good friend.

One conversation that often does not happen until it is too late is a conversation about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Parents may assume their kids know their expectations about substance use. They may also worry that if they bring it up, it will “plant seeds” in their kids’ heads and their kids would be more likely to use.

They may not be sure what to say or how to say it and so just don’t say anything at all. They may also think that if they ever irresponsibly used substances in the past, that they might worry that it is hypocritical to have expectations for their own children. They might think that their kids won’t listen to them anyway because they are “old” and irrelevant.

We know that parents have a huge influence on their kids – even their teenage children. The Partnership for a Drug Free America states on their website that “Parents have more influence over their child than friends, music, TV, and Internet and celebrities.” In fact, kids whose parents teach them about the risks of drugs and alcohol are up to 50 percent less likely to use substances than those who don’t.

This conversation doesn’t have to be a lecture. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be a lecture. Use natural moments to have those “big conversations” – maybe it can happen while you’re out in the boat, working in the garden, or even while you’re driving them somewhere in the car. When you notice someone engaging in troubling behavior in the news or on a television show, talk about it.

My own children are fairly young but they know that smoking is unhealthy, that alcohol is for adults over the age of 21, and that illegal drugs should never be used by anyone. These conversations can begin as soon as they can notice alcohol advertisements or see someone smoking a cigarette.

As your child gets older, the conversations can and should continue. It is important that parents make their expectation regarding substance use clear and to also be clear about what the consequences will be if their child breaks their trust. Our coalition recommends creating a contract, in writing, that outlines those expectations and consequences. You can find guidelines for creating this contract at http://www.sackcoalition.org/family-contract.html.

I urge parents not to underestimate the power and influence they have in the lives of their kids. It is easy to see the eyerolls, the long sighs, and the disdainful looks and assume that our kids could care less what we think.

The reality is, that all kids want to make their parents proud and they want their parents to provide boundaries.

Letting your child know that you do not want them to use chemicals is providing a boundary and communicating that you care about their well-being. If you would like more guidance in how to have conversations with your kids or have any other questions about parenting, please feel free to call met at Mora High School at 320-679-6220. I’m there to help.

Sara Rossow is a school social worker at Mora Public School and a member of the Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County (SACK). SACK is administered by Kanabec County Public Health. For more information about the coalition visit www.sackcoalition.org.

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Tobacco Compliance Check Results

Sheriff's StarOn Friday, April 19th, the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office conducted tobacco compliance checks at area businesses. The tobacco compliance checks were funded through the Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County’s (SACK) Drug-Free Communities Program. Of the 17 businesses that were checked for tobacco compliance, 15 passed.

The following businesses were found to be compliant: Fish Lake Resort, Captain Dan’s Crows Nest, Station 65, North Woods Steakhouse, Pink Diamond, Finish Line Bar, S & R Mart, Coborn’s, Holiday Station Store, Jerry’s Bait, Bowe’s, Freedom Valu, North Country Bottle Shop, Mr. D’s Amoco and Fleet Go.

Minnesota State Statute requires licensing authorities to conduct unannounced compliance checks at least once each calendar year at each location where tobacco is sold. Compliance checks are enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting sale to minors. They involve an underage decoy who attempts to purchase tobacco from a retailer. If a sale is made, violators are cited by the KCSO and prosecuted by the Kanabec County Attorney’s Office.

Research indicates that regular compliance checks increases retailer compliance and subsequently decreases tobacco sales to minors. The SACK encourages Kanabec County residents to report illegal tobacco sales to the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office.

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