Manzar Zaidi

It is undeniable that smoking cigarettes is detrimental for one’s health. According to research, it is estimated that tobacco kills 7 million people every year (6 million people die from direct exposure and 1 million people die from secondhand smoke). While most people are aware of the many ways a cigarette harms our body, a lot of them are unaware that its effects on our environment are also quite damaging.

Cigarettes damage our environment by releasing toxic air pollutants into the atmosphere. The smoke released from burning of a cigarette contains thousands of toxic and poisonous chemicals which become part of the air we breathe. Exposure to toxic secondhand smoke and polluted air poses a high risk for non-smokers of suffering from the same complications and diseases that are associated with direct smoking.

Apart from cigarette smoke, cigarette butts also majorly pollute our environment. In fact, they are the world’s most littered trash that not only affect the flora and fauna of land but are also the greatest source of ocean trash. Smokers around the world buy roughly 6.5 trillion cigarettes each year. That’s 18 billion cigarettes every day. Around two thirds of these cigarette butts are not trashed properly and instead become a part of our environment. The toxic chemicals from the discarded cigarette butts seep into soils and waterways, thereby causing soil and water pollution, respectively. Animals and plants that come into contact or absorb the toxic substances from the cigarette residues are affected as well.

The simplest solution to this problem would be to stop smoking altogether. However, while many smokers try to quit, a lot of them relapse causing them to continue smoking. To reduce the health risks for such smokers and to reduce the damage being caused to the environment by cigarettes, scientific advances have produced a variety of less harmful, smoke-free products. Such alternatives, which include heated tobacco products (HTPs), e-cigarettes, vapes, snuff, nicotine pouches etc have been scientifically designed to eliminate the process of burning the tobacco, thus eliminating the release of toxic smoke, which is found to be the cause of majority of smoking-related diseases, otherwise released by cigarettes. This effectively prevents the smoke from polluting our bodies and our environment. If smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke are given awareness about and better access to these scientifically substantiated products, it will be really helpful to tackle related environmental and health issues to an extent and might also encourage them to eventually let go of this habit.