Smoking & the Environment

The growing, processing and smoking of tobacco have major negative impacts on our local and global environments. The growing of tobacco involves the use of large amounts of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. Many of these are toxic and some contain known carcinogens (cancer causing agents).

In less developed countries the use of these substances is often unregulated. As well as threatening the health of plantation workers, the chemicals used can often contaminate village water supplies due to run off from the plantations.

Deforestation is another problem associated with tobacco growing. Firstly, forests need to be cleared for large scale tobacco planting. Secondly, in many developing countries tobacco leaf is cured (dried) mainly by wood smoke. This usually requires further clearing of forests in order to supply the wood for the curing process.

Pressure on our forests also comes from the heavy use of paper associated with the wrapping and packaging of cigarettes. Modern cigarette manufacturing machines use more than six kilometres of paper per hour.

Perhaps the most obvious way in which smoking impacts on the environment is through tobacco-related litter. In the 1999 Clean Up Australia activities, the most common type of rubbish collected was cigarette butts, accounting for 9% of the ten most common items found. Cigarette butts take one to five years to break down.

Useful links

Pesticide Action Network North America Regional Center (search for “tobacco”)

Clean Up Australia Day


Chapman s, Wong WL. Tobacco Control in the Third World – A Resource Atlas, International Organisation of Consumers Unions, Penang, 1990.

Clean Up Australia Ltd, Clean Up Australia 1997 – Annual Report Incorporating the Rubbish Report.

This Fact Sheet is brought to you courtesy of The Cancer Council NSW

More info:
Download the Smoking and the Environment Fact Sheet

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