Earth Day 2016

“Earth Day is more than just a single day,” according to the Earth Day website.  The movement that started in 1970 is still going strong and growing.   This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth,” and it is very fitting considering the amount of deforestation that takes place every year.   Deforestation “increases the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide,  deforestationbut also affects the environment by inhibiting water recycling, triggering severe flooding, aquifer depletion, soil degradation and the extinction of plant and animal species.”   You may not think of tobacco when you think of deforestation, but the industry is known for massive amounts of deforestation.

In poorer, third-world countries trees are cut down to make way for tobacco farming, with more wood being needed to dry out and cure the picked tobacco leaves.  According to the World Health Organization, “an average of 7.8kg of wood is needed to cure 1kg of tobacco,” or stated another way, “5.7lbs of wood to make one pack of cigarettes.”  The site ydouthink.com states “35 countries are now facing environmental crises” due to tobacco production in their county with the percentage of deforestation ranging from 12% in South Africa, to 45% in the Republic of Korea.

photo from Wikimedia Commons

photo from Wikimedia Commons

If the trees are not being used to dry tobacco leaves, then they are being used to make paper for a cigarette.  One site suggests “modern cigarette manufacturing machines use six kilometers of paper per hour.” If a cigarette plant is running 24 hours a day, that’s 144 kilometers or about 89.48 miles worth of paper, the distance from Jupiter, Fl down to Miami, FL.

Deforestation is not the only environmental problem due to cigarette production. Erosion from the loss of these trees also strips the land of valuable soil.  Huge amounts of pesticides are needed during the tobacco growing process and the chemical run off contaminates the water supplies.  Growing tobacco strips the soil of nutrients needed to grow other crops “leaving soil in poor condition for essential food and cash crops.”  And then there is the “1.69 million pounds of toxic litter” each year from cigarette butts, the most littered item in the world.

If you won’t give up smoking for your health, at least consider giving it up for the environment.  Our planet Earth will be grateful.

Click HERE for Earth Day information.

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