Smoking and climate change: the impact of the global cigarette industry

Smoking and climate change: the impact of the global cigarette industry
©iStock/Matthias Lindner’

The negative health effects of smoking are well-documented, but now a new study has investigated the link between smoking and climate change, water and land use, and environmental toxicity.

The study was carried about by researchers at the Imperial College London, England, and was led by Maria Zafeiridou.

The new study is called “Cigarette Smoking: An Assessment of Tobacco’s Global Environmental Footprint Across Its Entire Supply Chain” and has been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology

Professor Nick Voulvoulis of the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said: “The environmental impacts of cigarette smoking, from cradle to grave, add significant pressures to the planet’s increasingly scarce resources and fragile ecosystems. Tobacco reduces our quality of life as it competes for resources with commodities valuable to livelihoods and development across the world.”

Smoking and climate change

Smoking and climate change are interlinked due to the consumption of energy and fuel, water usage, soil depletion, and acidification which occurs from tobacco cultivation. Producing green tobacco to be used in the dry tobacco for the cigarette industry contributes to nearly 84 Mt CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to around 0.2% of the global C02 emissions.

The impact on the developing world

There is also an ethical consideration associated with using the finite resources of water, land, pesticides, and labour, which could be used more efficiently for food production in the cigarette industry. In comparison to other crops, tobacco requires more inputs and produces much lower yields. One example given by the study is that one hectare of land in Zimbabwe has the potential to produce nineteen times more potatoes than the tobacco which is currently cultivated.

Almost 90% of global tobacco production takes place in developing countries. Nine of the top ten tobacco-producing companies are developing, and four are low-income-food-deficit countries (LIFDCs). These countries include India, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, and Malawi. However, developed countries consume the majority of these cigarettes.

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