“Tobacco is killing us and our planet – #TobaccoExposed” is the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day campaign on 31 May. This campaign highlights the extent to which tobacco production contributes to environmental pollution, with a significant detrimental impact on people’s health.
Tobacco cultivation requires considerable quantities of water (approximately 22 billion metric tons globally) and trees approximately 600 million trees are chopped down every year), as well as a host of harmful chemicals and labour. Tobacco cultivation is also overwhelmingly concentrated in low- and middle-income countries and often replaces meaningful and sustainable agriculture that could respond to food deficits in four of the ten largest tobacco-cultivating countries.
Furthermore, cigarette butts are primarily made of plastic and the most common form of plastic waste, with about 4.5 trillion individual butts out of six trillion smoked littering the environment.
E-cigarettes – heavily promoted by the tobacco industry as an alternative to combustible smoking – also contribute to environmental damage. The manufacture of vaping devices requires metal, plastic, batteries and circuits; e-liquids contain significant quantities of toxic chemicals; and e-cigarette waste is not biodegradable and discarded cartridges or disposable devices generally break down into microplastics and chemicals that further pollute waterways.
World No Tobacco Day is a WHO-led initiative supported by UICC to drive attention to the harms caused by tobacco, and promote more effective prevention strategies and regulation of tobacco products. Tobacco use and second-hand smoke are well-known carcinogens, estimated to account globally for one-quarter of the 10 million cancer-related deaths recorded in 2020.
UICC is actively engaged through its work on tobacco control in raising awareness about the health risks associated with tobacco consumption, drawing attention to the business practices of tobacco companies, and encouraging governments to adopt and effectively implement the measures outlined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
To this effect, UICC has developed a number of tobacco control resources and tools, including infographics, social media banners, ready-made social media messages and videos. These have been updated and available to members and all interested organisations to raise awareness on World No Tobacco Day.