The ecological impact of cigarettes on the environment

The cigarette butt, before becoming this plastic waste that represents 30 to 40% of the waste most found on the beaches, the production and trade of tobacco represent a real ecological disaster and this problem concerns all continents. The 6,000 billion cigarettes produced each year are made from 7 million tons of tobacco and require theuse of 22 billion cubic meters of water!

A major ecological impact resulting from a long production cycle

The production of cigarettes is the result of a long process that has a very harmful ecological impact on the planet. It begins with the harvesting of a specific plant: the "nicotiana tabacum". It is a tropical plant that requires a lot of space to grow. For these plants alone, 200,000 hectares of primary forest are destroyed each year, which is equivalent to 5% of the world's deforestation! Since the 1970s, no less than 1.5 billion hectares of forest have been destroyed forever by tobacco cultivation, especially in tropical forests. This worldwide deforestation has a heavy impact on all the fauna that used to live there.

In addition to the size of the land needed to grow tobacco leaves, this plant is also very fragile. It is also necessary to destroy all the organisms considered as harmful for the plantation. To do this, a fumigation by the ground and the air is then carried out. The different gases that are emitted are prohibited in Europe because of their toxicity. Among them is bromomethane, a substance that is particularly harmful to the ozone layer. Once buried in the ground, tobacco leaves absorb a lot of nutrients compared to other plants and growers use a lot of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. As a result, no plants can grow near tobacco plants. The soil and the water table are therefore polluted, which implies a certain endangerment of aquatic life and of many insects and animals living in this environment.

Harvesting and transportation just as dangerous as cultivation

With respect to harvesting, everyone involved in the harvest is exposed to the various harmful products that are used in the cultivation and also to the plant. For example, the cutaneous absorption of nicotine causes a disease called green tobacco disease. This intoxication generates among other things numerous symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, low blood pressure.

The last steps that lead to the finished products have further consequences on the fauna and flora. The curing of tobacco leaves is done with wood or gas. The manufacture of filters, leaves and tobacco packages involves additional deforestation. Indeed, the drying of 1 kg of tobacco requires 10 kg of wood. Finally, the transport of the packs of cigarettes (by boat, plane, etc.) to the different points of sale emits greenhouse gases.

Once consumed, we must not forget that cigarette butts continue to have a heavy impact. When not properly extinguished, cigarette butts cause 16% of forest fires every year, as they are real glowing embers and therefore represent a real risk if they are thrown into nature.

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