Representational Image.

(Syed Asif/TOI Bangalore)

‘World No Tobacco Day’ is commemorated every year on May 31 to spread awareness about the many evils of tobacco use. While cigarettes come to our mind when we talk about tobacco, people consume it in numerous other forms, including smokeless forms like chew, snuff, dip, snus, and dissolvable tobacco. Here’s a quick overview of its use and environmental impacts:

History and use of tobacco

The use of tobacco goes as far back as the history of human civilisation itself—roughly 12,000 years ago. In India, barring some remote evidence of isolated use, organised tobacco cultivation did not start until the Portuguese introduced it in the 17th century. The widespread use and sale of tobacco products across the country are even more recent—the early 20th century.

The opposition to tobacco usage dates back to at least 130 years, with the first national-level anti-tobacco movement in Iran in 1891-92. Since the 1930s, growing proof of tobacco’s health risks forced many western countries to levy high taxes on the product and ban it in public places. The link between smoking and cancer was eventually confirmed in the 1980s.

In India, approximately 27 crore adults (15 years and above) were active tobacco users between the years 2016 and 2017, as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India.

Environmental and health impacts

While the health impacts of Tobacco are fairly well-known, its environmental impacts are often ignored. As per the US CDC, smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is also linked to an increased risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and immune system problems, including rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition, the tobacco industry’s negative impact on the environment is extensive and expanding, putting undue strain on our planet’s already limited resources and vulnerable ecosystems, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on the occasion of ‘World No Tobacco Day’.

WHO revealed that 600,000,000 trees are cut down, 84,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide is discharged into the atmosphere, and 22,000,000,000 tonnes of water is used up due to the tobacco industry.

And cigarette butts being non-biodegradable is a concerning factor as well, a WHO fact-sheet says, adding that degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is another issue.

Furthermore, through the cultivation, production, distribution, consumption, and post-consumer waste, tobacco kills approximately 8 million people each year.

For the sake of both human and environmental health, it’s time to say no to Tobacco!


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