World Health Organization urges countries to give support to tobacco farmers to switch to sustainable farming, and implement strong tobacco taxes
On World No Tobacco Day, WHO has revealed new information on the extent to which tobacco damages both the environment and human health, calling for steps to make the industry more accountable.
Every year the tobacco industry costs the world more than 8 million human lives, 600 million trees, 22 billion tonnes of water and 84 million tonnes of CO2.
According to the WHO report, Tobacco: Poisoning our planet, the tobacco industry’s carbon footprint from production, processing and transporting is equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced by the commercial airline industry each year.
“Tobacco products are the most littered item on the planet, containing over 7000 toxic chemicals, which leech into our environment when discarded. Roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil and beaches every year,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.
The majority of tobacco is grown in low-and-middle-income countries, where water and farmland are often desperately needed to produce food for the region. Instead, they are being used to grow deadly tobacco plants, while more and more land is being cleared of forests.
Countries like France and Spain and cities like San Francisco, California in the USA have taken a stand. Following the Polluter Pays Principle, they have successfully implemented “extended producer responsibility legislation” which makes the tobacco industry responsible for clearing up the pollution it creates.
WHO urges countries and cities to follow this example, as well as give support to tobacco farmers to switch to sustainable crops, implement strong tobacco taxes (that could also include an environmental tax) and offer support services to help people quit tobacco.
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