Tobacco kills over 8 million individuals every year, including 1.2 million non-smokers as a result of second-hand exposure. The effects of tobacco on health, as well as its links to a wide range of diseases, are well-established. As a leading cause of heart disease, tobacco contributes to approximately 17% of all cardiovascular disease deaths and 21% of all coronary heart disease deaths.
Yet, the impact of tobacco on the environment has remained a lesser-known fact. For decades, the tobacco industry has sought to greenwash its reputation and portray itself as an environmentally-friendly industry. Nonetheless, a mountain of evidence indicates that tobacco harms our planet throughout its entire lifecycle – from cultivation, to manufacture, distribution, consumption, and disposal.
In fact, the production, distribution, and consumption of cigarettes have direct repercussions on air pollution, carbon emission, climate change, deforestation, and other limited precious natural resources. In particular, air pollution is widely recognized as a major risk factor for heart disease, as well as the world’s single largest environmental health risk. Evidence suggests that approximately 25% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease and 24% of all deaths from stroke are attributable to air pollution.
“Tobacco damages the environment throughout its entire lifecycle. The tobacco industry contributes substantially to air pollution and climate change, both of which adversely affect cardiovascular health. It is time to stop celebrating the polluters and make the tobacco industry accountable”, says Prof. Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the WHF Tobacco Expert Group.
The World Heart Federation and its Members envision cardiovascular health for everyone and remain committed to ending the tobacco epidemic. The tobacco industry severely hinders the Sustainable Development Goals relating to both health and the environment, including SDG 3.4. As such, we urge all countries, and relevant stakeholders, to fully implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to improve health and preserve our planet.