29 December 2016

#GoneGreen2016 | Day 275 | The Eco + Ethical Issues With Cigarettes

Day 275 / 365

I picked up smoking late in life, I was 26 when I tried my first cigarette and while I've never smoked heavily, I've been ebbing and flowing through social / emotional smoking ever since. I can go months without it crossing my mind, but three or four drinks into a night out when everyone around me is doing it, and it's all I can think about.

While the health effects of cigarette consumption have made it to my conscious thought, the ecological and ethical effects of smoking didn't cross my mind until a trip to Fuerteventura earlier this year. We stumbled across the Clean Oceans Project where we received a lesson in ocean garbage, cigarettes included. During COP's 2012’s International Costal Cleanup, 2,117,931 cigarettes and cigarette filters were found. Each filter on the cigarette is made from cellulose acetate, which takes anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose. To top it off, used cigarette filters are full of tar, which leaches into the ground and waterways damaging all living organisms it comes into contact with. While these facts curbed how I disposed of the cigarettes, it didn't curb the smoking itself ...  that was until I started researching more for this post.

There are about 1.2 billion smokers in the world (1/3 of the world's population aged 15 and over), nearly 40% of the European population smokes (I blame life in Europe as much as myself for my relationship with tobacco), and at least 4.5 trillion cigarettes are disposed of annually. Global cigarette production in 2004 was 5.5 trillion units, or 868 cigarettes per every man, woman, and child on the planet.


Apart from the sheer amount of garbage, there are deforestation issues too. Malawi, Korea, Macedonia, Moldova, and Lebanon devote more than 1% of their agricultural land to tobacco leaf production. In Africa, around 5% of all deforestation is caused by tobacco. Even once the tobacco is grown, just to dry it, nearly 600 million trees are destroyed each year - that's one tree per 300 cigarettes for drying alone. 


Tobacco also a plant which requires a sh*t ton of pesticides and DDT during its growth which contribute significantly to ozone depletion is hazardous to the farmers farming the plant, and the chemicals run off into local water supplies affecting the local community, fauna, and flora. 

SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS
I'm not here to tell people what to do and not do, but I think if one can't / won't stop smoking, switching to significantly more sustainable products does make a difference. I've linked in some options below. You can find organic tobacco in most tobacconists as well as unbleached filters, and papers. I've linked in one shop below which had plenty to choose from.

1. Stop smoking 
2. Unbleached biodegradable filters
3. Organic tobacco
4. Unbleached natural organic papers
* I have not included e-cigarettes for a reason. I used to work for NJOY and though there are significantly less chemicals in e-cigarettes, the packing and production is neither eco-friendly nor ethically done. 
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
Photo: Kyle Thompson

No comments: