The negative impact that cigarettes have on the human body is no secret, but the destructive effect they have on the environment is often overlooked. Most smokers believe that they are only damaging their own health, but remain completely oblivious to the impacts cigarettes relay on to their loved ones.  Cigarettes severely damage the environment through air, water, and land pollution, while also have a harmful impact on deforestation and climate change.

While air pollution is notably the most apparent cause of environmental damage, not many people realize the true extent. There are around 4000 checigmicals found in cigarettes, which are exhaled and released into the atmosphere. With over 30% of the North American population identified as smokers, and an even greater percentage of smokers in developing countries, there is a massive amount of air pollution being released into the atmosphere every day.

In addition to the air pollution, cigarettes play a major role in tainting land and water. Millions of cigarette butts – which take around 25-26 years to decompose – are left on the ground every day. Consequently, these butts often find their way into lakes and rivers where fish and other aquatic animals misconceive the butts for food and fatally consume them.  Cigarette butts are not the only thing harmful to living organism, the filters are also toxic to aquatic life and the chemicals and additives from these filters leach into the soil and kill plants. With cigarette filters being the most abundant trash item collected on beach pick ups, this can have vast impacts on the ecosystem. Carelessness with cigarette butts can also lead to major fires which can damage wildlife and the environment. In the USA, cigarette smoking is the first or second leading cause of fire-related deaths each year. Fire and burns from cigarettes is annually among the 10 leading college of death in the United States.

The most harmful aspect of cigarettes on the environment actually comes from the production facet.  The tobacco plants also must be sprayed with various chemicals and pesticides to prevent being eaten by pests. These pesticides can run off into nearby rivers and create environmental health problems and damage the ecosystem. The land that is used to grow the tobacco plants could be utilized for many different productive uses such as producing food or providing homes for people. Tobacco crops also deplete the soil of important nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus which in turn cause the tobacco crop to be relocated annually often leading to  deforestation.   Beyond the tobacco crop, four miles of paper are used in one hour in the cigarette industry to roll and package cigarettes. One tree alone only accounts for approximately 300 cigarettes, and with the mass amount of cigarettes being produced in the cigarette industry this can cause a huge strain on the environment. The deforestation of trees required to meet the demands of this industry allow for more CO2 in the atmosphere and impact climate change.

quitcig   Not only do cigarette pose a treacherous threat to our health and loved ones, but it also plays a pivotal impact on the environment. Cigarettes are perceived by many to be more dangerous than marijuana and even alcohol, but marijuana is illegal with less known negative effects than cigarettes. In my opinion, this speaks more to the influence multi-billion dollar cigarette industry has and their ability to disregard the devastating affects cigarettes have on human health and the environment. Do you believe the government would ever step in to regulate this industry in anyway? How many people, along with aquatic wildlife, a have to die for a change to be made? What is your opinion on how we could negate the impact of the cigarette industry, if you even believe it to be necessary? What possible negative evidence could finally cause people to say enough is enough with cigarettes and its industry?






15 thoughts on “CIG-UH-DONT

  1. I think that this is a great post. I haven’t thought about how cigarettes play a role in the environment, especially with how many trees are taken down to produce cigarettes. One thing that does annoy me is when I see people throw their cigarette butts out the window of their car. I wish that littering of cigarette butts was more enforced because either someone has to pick them up or they end up in the waterways. I didnt know the impact of the butts on aquatic animals until I read this, which just gives me another reason to dislike people who throw their butts on the ground. I do think that the people should stop smoking for a multitude of reasons but Im not sure if we would be able to regulate cigarettes besides driving the price so high that people cant afford to buy them.


  2. This is a very interesting subject. So many ways that cigarettes have a negative environmental impact. I would be interested in seeing some yearly data for how these statistics have changed over the last 50-100 years. I wonder how things like the implementation of the filter, or the discovery of the negative health effects have changed the environmental impact?


  3. Cigarettes are have so much negative and the only positives is the tax money from the sells. More and more alternatives to cigarettes are becoming popular each day. Maybe these alternatives will help with the environment. People are now vaping instead of smoking. I do not know if these chemicals are as bad for the environment as the 400 that are in cigarettes.


  4. I think that people often view the butt of their cigarette as biodegradable or almost natural by the way they are thrown out. They are grossly everywhere. I have never thought of the smoke from cigarettes being considered air pollution just because of the natural connotation behind “smoke.” Hopefully with developing technologies, a biodegradable cigarette and butt is in the near future. i would imagine there is a filtering material that would have close to the same effect as current filters do, but with less durability. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Hum I honestly don’t see any good from cigarettes but I also think banning them completely might make the problem worse – people will find a way to get some kind of drug weather it be alcohol or others. We don’t want to encourage people to use something worse!


  6. It’s sad that many cigarette smokers think they’re excused from littering. I’d like to see hefty fines for people throwing cigarette butts out of their window.


  7. While we can convey this message to cigarette smokers, we cannot make them care which I think is one of the hardest parts about environmental engineering and hearing all of the negative impacts in the things we do. I think the largest generation of smokers is aging, and at this point, our greatest prayer is the popularity of cigarettes passes with them.


  8. Really good article. As a former smoker of 5 years I started to see the detrimental effects of it so I made it a goal to quit. Which I’m extremely glad I did especially seeing all the effects that you have listed.


  9. I’m interested to know if there are any actual numbers behind pesticides and nutrient inputs used to grow materials for cigarettes per a given area versus the same units used in agricultural practices like food and feed production. If cigarettes turned out to be even worse than many of our food operations environmentally, that could be another public campaign to be brought up – maybe more commercials like the ads against smoking for direct human health reasons, but this time for indirect health effects from environmental problems on top of actual effects on environment. This blog also hitting on the point about cigarettes washing into rivers and streams makes me reinterpret those pictures of animals, specifically fish, with cigarettes in their mouths as actually having a hidden meaning – even though these are intended to be comical.


  10. Good read, I knew that cigarette smoke couldn’t be good for the environment, but your article brought the damage it produces to light. It is crazy to see what happens to butts in the waterways. I knew that’s where they ended up, but could not have imagined the damage that it caused. Thanks for the interesting read.


  11. The health effects of cigarette smoking is well documented, yet I never considered the environmental impact of the tobacco industry. Every product has an impact on the environment but the cigarette butts’ effect on aquatic life is something that is unique to a smaller set of products.


  12. Jordan, this article has great insight into the tobacco industry. The shear destruction that cigarettes facets from pollution and emissions. A solution in my opinion is to ban cigarettes. This would reduce the amount of pollution from cigarette buds.


  13. Cigarettes are indeed really bad in a lot of different ways, but the question becomes what to do about the problem. I don’t really see the government taking any steps to make cigarettes illegal because of the economic benefits of the tobacco industry. So, what can really be done?


  14. I’ve never understood why smokers think that they’re entitled to pollute by throwing cigarette butts on the ground. I think that there are many other problems with smoking but that is one thing that I’ve never understood. The statistics on cigarette butts was alarming as well.


  15. It was mentioned in class that taxing cigarettes to mitigate the adverse health and environmental affects that they create may help the problem. I agree with this solution. As far as I’m concerned, we will never completely ban cigarettes, because who are we to tell a 70+ year old veteran with PTSD that he can’t have a cigarette to calm his nerves. More plainly, if someone likes the effects of a cigarette and would like to sacrifice their health for the feelings that they get while smoking, it is their right to do so. The taxing situation allows people who really need them to still purchase, but will help solve the problems of people that do smoke and possibly deter more people from smoking from higher prices.


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