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Published On: Tue, Oct 25th, 2016

Why Smoking Bans Could Help the Environment

Smoking cigarettes is potentially the worst thing people do to their bodies, but millions of Americans remain smokers despite the risks ― and despite the relatively healthful alternatives. The typical defense smokers have of their rotten habit is that they can do what they want with their own health, and that argument tends to hold ground.

Yet, as insurmountable research has proven, it simply isn’t true that smokers are only harming themselves. Secondhand smoke impacts millions of non-smokers every year, not only with discomfort due to the harsh smoke but also with debilitating secondhand health problems, including respiratory issues, heart problems, and even cancers. On top of this, additional findings have shown that tobacco cigarettes are contributing to climate change in a distressing way.

The Environmental Effects of Cigarettes

From their creation to their use, tobacco cigarettes impact the environment negatively, killing forests as quickly as they kill people. Abundant research has pinpointed the most disastrous effects of cigarettes so smokers and non-smokers alike can understand how the environment continues to change for the worse.

No Smoking Sign photo/pmox

No Smoking Sign photo/pmox

Local and global environments are affected by cigarette smoke. One study found that just three cigarettes produce 10 times more air pollution than a diesel engine. In fact, worldwide, cigarette smokers are responsible for as much as 2.8 million tons of carbon dioxide entering our atmosphere every day as well as 5.7 million tons of methane every year. These gases are the primary causes of the greenhouse effect, which is steadily warming our planet to disastrous results.

Litter is another consequence of smoking. Because the filter on cigarettes doesn’t burn, every smoked cigarette produces a stub that many smokers carelessly flick away. Around the world, roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered per year, and despite laws against littering, it is easy to find tossed tips nearly anywhere, from city streets to public beaches to national forests. Worse, cigarette butts remain toxic, so the chemicals they leech into the environment can pollute soil and water, and children and animals might accidently consume them and sustain serious health problems as a result.

One aspect of smoking that few consider is the resources needed to produce so many cigarettes. Entire forests are cut down to create the paper for rolling tobacco as well as the fuel for drying tobacco; in fact, regions in Africa can blame more than 20 percent of their deforestation on the tobacco industry. Additionally, tobacco is an unruly crop to grow, and most farmers indiscriminately use chemical pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides to guarantee a fruitful harvest. These chemicals seep in to the air and soil, depleting the ozone layer and preventing other plants from growing in the future.

What Smokers Can Do

It may seem obvious, but smokers can help the environment ― and themselves ― by kicking their habit. There are hundreds of resources to help smokers quit, from cessation tools like nicotine gum and patches.

If they don’t want to quit though, they could try replacement devices like e-cigarettes. E-cigs offer a nearly identical sensation to smoking without the environmental dangers, like combustion and wasteful butts, making them an ideal solution to the environmental crisis smoking poses.

Additionally, smokers can be more conscientious of how they light up. Littering any material is harmful to the environment, but smoldering cigarette butts are particularly dangerous. Smokers must ensure their butts are always fully dead before depositing them in an acceptable receptacle, like an ashtray or trash bin. Finally, it is imperative that smokers adhere to all laws and regulations on smoking, which may mean moving to a specific area before lighting up.

How Bans Could Help

Already, smoking bans have been shown to improve the environment. Particulates in the air ― which can be inhaled and wreak havoc on respiratory systems ― decreased by up to 96 percent in public spaces where smoking was not permitted, allowing everyone to breathe easier. Research proves that the fewer people smoke, the less impact smoking will have on the environment.

Fortunately, smoking bans have been shown to encourage young male smokers to kick the habit. It is possible that making smoking inconvenient is enough of a push to convince smokers to transition to more accessible sources of nicotine. Therefore, smoking bans will help the environment by reducing the number of smokers in particular areas, thereby reducing the need to produce and clean up toxic cigarettes.

Author: Michael Ramos

Anti-Smoking ad date 1905, public domain

Anti-Smoking ad date 1905, public domain

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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