‘Poisoning our planet’: WHO highlights tobacco industry damage to health, environment

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The tobacco industry costs the world over eight million lives, 600 million trees, and 84 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, a new reported by the World Health Organization revealed, calling its products the “most littered items on the planet.”

The report entitled ‘Tobacco: Poisoning our planet’ revealed new information about the damages the industry has caused to both human health and the environment, calling for steps to make the industry more accountable for the destruction it has caused over the years.

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Tobacco products are the most littered item on the planet, containing over 7,000 toxic chemicals, which leech into our environment when discarded,” Dr Ruediger Krech, director of health promotion at WHO, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil and beaches every year.”

The costs of cleaning up littered tobacco products fall on taxpayers, according to WHO, rather than the industry that is creating the problem.

In Brazil and Germany, for instance, the cost of cleaning up the litter left behind from tobacco products come in at over $200 million each year. This costs China $2.6 billion and India around $766 million.

The United Nations health organization called on policymakers to treat cigarette filters as single use plastics, and consider banning them altogether to safeguard the environment and protect public health.

The water and farmland that is being used to grow tobacco in low-and-middle-income countries could be put to much better use such as to produce food, which is so often desperately needed in tobacco producing countries, WHO said.

The WHO urged countries to follow the example set by France, Spain, and California in the US, which have taken a stand against this by following the Polluter Pays Principle which they successfully implemented “extended producer responsibility legislation,” holding the industry accountable for clearing up the pollution it creates.

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