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Smoking Beyond You / The Impact Of Cigarettes

Updated on July 2, 2014
Cigarettes and the Environment
Cigarettes and the Environment

I was a smoker for years. Not a proud moment in my life but a part of it non the less. It is a safe assumption to say that the vast majority of us know smoking is bad for our health and our pocketbook. To what extent may be a little more varied. I knew that many cancers and cardiovascular diseases were related to smoking, but I had no idea about cataracts and multiple sclerosis. Without my girlfriend and now wife, I am not sure if I could have quit so early in my life. She gave me the strength and motivation I needed. I knew how stupid it was to smoke, but I still did it. I was addicted. Recently, I started thinking about all the other negative impacts smoking has on our society. I decided to do a little research and go beyond those things that affect us on a personal level such as our health, budget, and immediate family and friends.

Let’s start from the beginning. It is a very good place to start. An article back in 2008 on MSNBC states that there are more than 350,000 acres of US farmland being used to raise tobacco. It is hard to blame the farmers when tobacco is about 10x as profitable as corn. It is estimated that about 14,826,322 acres of land are being used worldwide for growing tobacco. This amount of farmland used to grow food could feed around 20 million people.

An Inconvenient Smoke, forgive the bad pun. According to Italy’s National Cancer Institute three cigarettes may cause more air pollution than a diesel car’s exhaust.

Cigarette Butt Water
Cigarette Butt Water

What happens with all those cigarettes when they are finished? The Cigarette Litter Organization estimated in 2001 that about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. To compound this problem cigarette butts are designed to be filters and thus accumulate toxins. 50 of these toxins are known carcinogens, but that number is nothing compared to the 4,000 chemical that can be found in a single cigarette. These toxins can leach into the water poisoning the animal life. According to a report from Smoke Free Oregon, tumors in turtles have been linking to cigarette butt pollution in Hawaii.

Now for some more fun facts, the most common litter item is cigarette butts and contrary to popular belief they do not biodegrade quickly. How fast they break down is up for debate. The filter manufactures say it takes 1 to 12 months depending on environmental conditions. Other research organizations have shown it takes one to three years. Still others claim it takes up to 15 years. Which one is correct? I have no idea, but based on some flower pots on my balcony, I am leaning toward the research that says over a year.

When going about my research I found reports from the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia and from almost every developed country in the world. So while smoking declines in developed nations, tobacco companies are targeting areas in the third world where the hazards of smoking are not as commonly known.

There is no shortage of information about the negative affects of smoking on your physical health, the environment, and the strain it puts on our financial resources. I could write a book instead of a BLOG. As an ex smoker I know how hard it is to quit. Every now and then I still crave a cigarette. I encourage you to do the research on how smoking affects the things you care about. Every little bit of motivation helps. Do it for yourself, the people you care about, and the world you live in.

Some of the chemicals in a cigarette.
Some of the chemicals in a cigarette. | Source

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