May 31st has been designated as the World No Tobacco Day, by decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) and collaborating health agencies in which important data are listed on the harmful effects of tobacco, but also on the benefits of quitting smoking . What is not widely known, however, is the impact on the environment from tobacco products, Dr. Mata Tsikrikas, pulmonologist at “SOTIRIA” Hospital, secretary of the Smoking Cessation Group of the Pan-European Pulmonology Association, president of the Union of Pulmonologists of Greece, reports to APE-MPE. It presents alarming data on the environmental footprint, highlighting: “Abert Alert! The breath of the planet is being sought.”

“We need food, not smoking”

This year, the message of the World No Tobacco Day is formulated under the title “We need food, not smoking”, interest of economic-social inequalities, the phenomenon of the great food crisis that emerged during the pandemic, as well as the serious environmental footprint. For the first time through the global message, an attempt is being made to awaken everyone’s environmental consciousness, since the effects on nature from tobacco products are recorded as particularly unfavorable, emphasizes Mrs. Tsikrikas.

According to the WHO, the aim of this year’s message is to raise awareness among both citizens and tobacco farmers about the alternative possibilities of producing crops and trading the soil with other sustainable, nutritious crops and not with tobacco.

Effects on nature from tobacco products

More specifically, throughout the process of growing tobacco, large areas of land are deforested, increased amounts of pesticides and fertilizers are used, and pollutants are released during the processing of tobacco leaves, processes that cumulatively lead to the ongoing environmental burden and contribute to the increase in carbon dioxide emissions and accelerating climate change.

According to the data presented to APE-MPE by Mrs. Tsikrikas, in recent years more than 600,000,000 trees have been cut down, 22,000,000,000 liters of water have been used in the production and manufacture of cigarettes, while at the same time more than 84,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions have been released into the atmosphere, significantly increasing the global average temperature values. In addition, the improper global waste management of 4.5 trillion cigarette butts annually produces 1.69 billion pounds of toxic waste, releasing thousands of chemicals into the air, water and soil. It may not be widely known that cigarette butts, due to their small size, are mistaken for food for many birds or fish, while at the same time traces of plastic found in cigarette filters are found in oceans around the world, contaminating hundreds of liters of water.

Abert Alert! The breath of the planet is sought

This year’s campaign calls on governments to stop the flow of subsidies to tobacco cultivation and to help tobacco stakeholders and workers, through legislation, to switch to more sustainable crops aiming for the long-term food stability and security of their citizens.

The primary objective of the World Anti-Tobacco Day, Ms. Tsikrikas emphasizes, must be to inform civil society about the urgent threat of climate change, desertification and soil degradation, but also about the irreversible environmental loss of precious resources such as water sources, forests, plants and animal species, which are likely to occur in the next five years, upsetting the fragile balances not only between citizens but also entire states.