WHO today announces the 2022 global campaign for World No Tobacco Day – “Tobacco: Threat to our environment.” . The campaign is aimed to raise awareness among the public on the environmental impact of tobacco – from cultivation, production, distribution and waste. It will give users of tobacco another reason to quit.
The campaign will also aim to expose tobacco industry’s effort to “greenwash” its reputation and products by marketing themselves as environmentally friendly.
The tobacco industry contributes to climate disruption and decreases climate resilience.
Every year, around 3.5 million hectares are lost to tobacco cultivation. Deforestation is a major problem in the developing world, where tobacco cultivation is a major contributor. of Deforestation for tobacco plantations promotes soil degradation and “failing yields” or the capacity for the land to support the growth of any other crops or vegetation.
“The environmental impacts of tobacco using adds unnecessary pressure to our planet’s already scarce resources and fragile ecosystems. This is especially dangerous for developing countries, as that’s where most of the tobacco production happens.” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion, “Every cigarette you smoke, you are literally burning resources where they are already scarce, burning resources where our very existence depends upon.”
The environment burden falls on the poorest countries, and transnational tobacco companies are able to make profits in higher-income countries.
Because 90% of all global tobacco production is concentrated in the developing worlds, it has a huge impact on different socioeconomic groups. In low- and middle-income countries, many farmers and government officials see tobacco as a cash crop that can generate economic growth, however, the short-term cash benefits of the crop are offset by the long-term consequences of increased food insecurity, frequent sustained farmers’ debt, illness and poverty among farm workers, and widespread environmental damage in low- and middle-income countries.
The tobacco industry has also invested heavily to “greenwash” their environmentally damaging practices by reporting environmental impact and funding environmental corporate social responsibility projects and organizations. Their smokescreen is not able to function due to a lack of objective data and inconsistent legislation at both local and international levels.
It is important to identify reducing tobacco consumption as a key lever to achieving all Sustainable Development Goals, and not just those directly related with health.
The campaign calls for governments and policy makers in order to strengthen existing legislation and make producers responsible to the environmental and economic consequences of tobacco product scrap.