On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released its first ever report on the environmental impact of tobacco.
The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is ‘Tobacco: a threat to development‘, and focuses the impact tobacco has on development in general, and sustainable development in particular.
Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$ 1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.
Tobacco scars the environment
The first-ever WHO report, Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview, also shows the impact of this product on nature, including:
- Tobacco waste contains over 7000 toxic chemicals that poison the environment, including human carcinogens.
- Tobacco smoke emissions contribute thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants, and greenhouse gases to the environment. And tobacco waste is the largest type of litter by count globally.
- Up to 10 billion of the 15 billion cigarettes sold daily are disposed in the environment.
- Cigarette butts account for 30–40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups.
Tobacco threatens women, children, and livelihoods
Tobacco threatens all people, and national and regional development, in many ways, including:
- Poverty: Around 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10% of total household expenditure – meaning less money for food, education and healthcare.
- Children and education: Tobacco farming stops children attending school. 10%–14% of children from tobacco-growing families miss class because of working in tobacco fields.
- Women: 60%–70% of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals.
- Health: Tobacco contributes to 16% of all noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) deaths.
Tobacco and Sustainable Development
Tobacco control represents a powerful tool in improving health in communities and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
SDG target 3.4 is to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030, including cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes.
Another SDG target, 3.a, calls for implementation of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
The WHO FCTC entered into force in 2005, and its Parties are obliged to take a number of steps to reduce demand and supply for tobacco products. Actions addressed in the Convention include
- protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke;
- banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
- banning sales to minors;
- requiring health warnings on tobacco packaging;
- promoting tobacco cessation;
- increasing tobacco taxes; and
- creating a national coordinating mechanism for tobacco control.
There are 180 Parties to the Convention.
Link to the WHO News Release:
Link to the WHO Report: ‘Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview’ (English) [PDF]:
Link to World No Tobacco Day 2017 website:
Link to WHO video ‘Tobacco- a threat to development’:
Link to WHO video ‘Tobacco threatens development’:
Link to WHO quiz on tobacco and development:
Link to Delhi Declaration COP7 (English) [PDF]: