As I walk along the streets of New York, I kick aside a few tossed cigarette butts as I bring my sleeve up to my nose to filter out the smoke from a lit cigarette. From this personal anecdote, which I relive every day, I can point out multiple issues.
Those cigarette butts on which I step point to a huge problem that cigarettes cause. It is estimated that, on the global scale, 4.3 trillion cigarettes are smoked and tossed, contributing 1.7 billion pounds to the litter problem that we humans are trying to combat. What’s more, these cigarettes are not biodegradable, and leak arsenic, nicotine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and other toxic components into the environment.
The smoke from the burning itself is also an issue. The smoke from a single cigarette may seem like a miniscule contribution to climate change and global warming, but remember the aforementioned amount: 4.3 trillion cigarettes per year. In total, cigarette smoke contributes 2.6 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide and 5.2 billion kilograms of methane into the atmosphere every year .
But we can also look to the manufacturing processes of cigarettes and find even more destructive practices. Monocropping tobacco plants is common, which leads to desertification and a greatly disturbed nutrient balance of the soil. In addition, the space required for tobacco farming is opened up through means of deforestation. It was estimated in 2010 alone that 200,000 hectares of forests are destroyed, ultimately accounting for 2-4% of global deforestation.
These detrimental effects on the environment, as a result of mere cigarettes, are great. But the act of smoking is also greatly detrimental to human health as well. All of the aforementioned toxic components that seep into the environment are also inhaled both by smokers and innocent passersby (in the form of second-hand smoke). So, for the sake of both environmental and human health, I urge smokers to try their best to quit, and nonsmokers to not try or restart the bad habit.