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Insights into Editorial: Of lungs, trees and sin stocks



31st May is observed as ‘World No Tobacco Day’ every year to spread awareness around the deadly effects of tobacco consumption.

The Member States of the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.

In 1988, Resolution WHA 42.19 was passed, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May.


India’s usage in Tobacco consumption:

The second Global Adult Tobacco Survey estimated that 28.6% of all adults in India used tobacco in 2016-2017, second only to China.

The survey said 42.4% of men and 14.2% of women used tobacco — both the smokeless form, i.e. chewing tobacco, and smoked form, i.e. cigarettes and ‘bidis’.

In 1987, the World Health Organization (WHO) marked ‘World No Tobacco Day’ to bring attention to the ill-effects of tobacco.

‘Poisoning our planet’ is the theme for May 31 this year, in an effort to highlight the ill-effects of tobacco on the environment.


Harm to health and environment:

  1. In 2021, smoking killed about 8 million people. But tobacco is not just a bane on human health.
  2. According to the WHO, 600 million trees are chopped down annually to make cigarettes, 84 million tonnes of CO2 emissions are released into the atmosphere, and 22 billion litres of water are used to make cigarettes.
  3. In addition to the environmental costs of production, cigarette butts, packaging, plastic pouches of smokeless tobacco, and electronics and batteries associated with e-cigarettes pollute our environment.
  4. India, the world’s second largest producer of tobacco, produces about 800 million kg annually.
  5. Most efforts to counter the tobacco epidemic have been directed at creating awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco.
  6. Over 90% of adults in India, across strata, identify tobacco as being harmful.
  7. Additional gains in overcoming the ill-effects of tobacco are therefore unlikely to come from more awareness campaigns alone.
  8. While several campaigns have also dealt with finding alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers, an issue that sometimes goes unnoticed is deforestation.
  9. About 6 million farmers and 20 million farm labourers work in tobacco farming across 15 States (Central Tobacco Research Institute).


Tobacco harms the environment:

Tobacco growing, manufacturing and use poison our water, soil, beaches and city streets with chemicals, toxic waste, cigarette butts, including microplastics, and e-cigarette waste.

Don’t fall for the tobacco industry’s attempt to try and distract from its environmental harms by greenwashing their products through donations to sustainability initiatives and reporting on environmental “standards” they often set themselves.


Make the tobacco industry clean up their mess:

The tobacco industry is making profit by destroying the environment and needs to be held accountable for the environmental destruction and made to pay for the waste and damages, including to recover the cost of collecting these wastes.

Quit tobacco to save our planet:

Tobacco smoke contributes to higher air pollution levels and contains three kinds of greenhouse gases.

Help tobacco farmers switch to sustainable crops:

Governments and policy makers should support tobacco farmers to switch to alternative, more sustainable livelihoods to reduce the environmental impact of tobacco growing, curing and manufacturing while continue to implement tobacco control measures.


Sustainable solutions: High-quality forest carbon credits:

  1. The forestry community has devised solutions and instruments to incentivize the reduction of deforestation through the use of carbon credits.
  2. With the surge in new commitments to zero carbon from the international commodity sector, companies are putting pressure on their supply chains to transition to sustainable practices and reduce deforestation.
  3. Companies like Unilever, Amazon, Nestlé, Alibaba, and Mahindra Group are pledging to cut emissions and are poised to invest an estimated $50 billion in nature-based solutions such as carbon sinks.
  4. This is driving new interest in sourcing from sustainable landscapes and buying high-quality forest carbon credits.
  5. Cigarette companies themselves appear to be changing. In 2016, one of the largest cigarette companies pledged to begin transitioning its customers away from tobacco to smoke-free products.
  6. By 2019, it reported it was spending 98% of its research and development budget to back up this goal.
  7. Though first met with scepticism, this strategy of transitioning to ‘socially responsible bottom-lines’ is picking up speed.


World No Tobacco Day 2022: Significance:

  1. World No Tobacco Day or Anti Tobacco Day emphasizes the health and other risks associated with tobacco use and advocates for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
  2. Several campaigns, events, and activities are organized on this day to educate people about the bad effects of tobacco on health.
  3. We all know that eating tobacco or other such products will give pleasure for some time but it will take life away.
  4. It may happen that after chewing tobacco a person feels energetic for a while but have you ever thought why is it so?
  5. They make addiction and you will be caught in this wheel which will be hard to get out of.



Educating potential consumers to not consume tobacco, supporting consumers in their journey to quit, and incentivizing industry to help consumers and the planet will protect not just our lungs, but also the air we breathe.

Although farming of tobacco only contributes to 1% of GDP as per one study, the direct health expenditure on treating tobacco-related diseases alone accounts for 5.3% of total health spending in India in a year (WHO).

Despite this, farming of tobacco cannot be stopped without serious economic consequences and/or social disruption.

So, all is not grim. While there are problems in the business of tobacco and cigarettes, there are options, solutions and global movements being undertaken by the largest corporate enterprises.