United Nations, May 31 (EFE).- More than 8 million people die from tobacco every year, the United Nations said on Tuesday, to mark the “World No Tobacco Day.”
In its startling figures, the World Health Organization said 600 million trees, 200,000 hectares of land, 22 billion tonnes of water, and 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are used to produce tobacco.
The UN health agency urged the governments to “stop the tobacco industry from poisoning our health and our planet.”
The organization said most of the environmental cost falls on low-and-middle-income countries, where water and farmland are used in growing tobacco plants instead of for food production.
A WHO report, “Tobacco: Poisoning our planet,” highlights that the industry’s carbon footprint from production, processing, and transporting tobacco is equivalent to one-fifth of the carbon dioxide produced by the commercial airline industry each year.
“Tobacco products are the most littered item on the planet, containing over 7,000 toxic chemicals, which leech into our environment when discarded”, said Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.
“Roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil and beaches every year.”
Products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes also add to the build-up of plastic pollution.
Cigarette filters, with no proven health benefits, contain microplastics and make up the second-highest form of plastic pollution worldwide.
The WHO called for policymakers to treat cigarette filters the same as any other single-use plastic, and consider banning them.
The UN health agency said the costs of cleaning up littered tobacco products fall on taxpayers rather than the industry creating the problem.
It costs China roughly $2.6 billion and India $766 million each year. The cost for Brazil and Germany comes in at over $200 million.
But France and Spain and cities like San Francisco and California in the United States are taking a stand by following the “polluter pays” principle.
“They have successfully implemented legislation which makes the tobacco industry responsible for clearing up the pollution it creates,” the health organization said.
WHO urged countries and cities to follow the example and support tobacco farmers to switch to sustainable crops, implement higher tobacco taxes, and offer support services to help people quit tobacco. EFE