Big Tobacco should have to pay up for its devastating impact on the environment, the World Heath Organization (WHO) has declared.
Growing tobacco inflicts “massive harm” to the planet via the extensive use of chemicals, energy and water, and pollution from manufacturing and distribution, the United Nations agency announced this week.
"From start to finish, the tobacco life cycle is an overwhelmingly polluting and damaging process,” said Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director-general in a report to mark World No Tobacco Day.
"Tobacco growing, the manufacture of tobacco products and their delivery to retailers all have severe environmental consequences, including deforestation, the use of fossil fuels and the dumping or leaking of waste products into the natural environment.”
Tobacco – which WHO claims kills seven million people a year – require great quantities of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fumigants to manage pest or disease outbreaks.
"Many of these chemicals are so harmful to both the environment and farmers’ health that they are banned in some countries," the report said.
The report added that great quantities of wood are burned to cure tobacco leaves, which contributes to deforestation. Some growers like China in Zimbabwe also use coal, which emits carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change.)
Tobacco waste contains over 7,000 toxic chemicals that harm the environment, including human carcinogens, the report added.
“All producers should be required to compensate for the environmental harms caused by deforestation, water use, waste, etc. through offsets in order to ultimately reduce the long-term ecological harm their business causes," it reads.
The report should not be ignored by cannabis growers. Experts have suggested extensive cannabis farming could negatively affect the planet’s health, with others theorizing that full legalization could reduce the industry’s impact on climate change.