WHO blames tobacco industry for global health, environmental hazards

By EDU ABADE, Business Editor

World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the tobacco industry is responsible for the destruction of human health and environments globally and should be held accountable for the environmental violations caused by its activities around the world, especially in low income countries.

In a statement issued by the WHO, the organisation revealed new information on the extent to which tobacco damages the environment and human health and advocated steps to make the industry more accountable for the damage it was causing.

It added that the tobacco industry costs the world over eight millions human lives, 600 million trees, 200,000 hectares of land and 22 billion tons of water yearly.

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The WHO also accused the industry of depriving human beings and plants of potable water, food and farmlands, especially in developing and low-income countries.

“Most of the tobacco plants grown in low-and-middleincome countries where water and farmlands are often desperately needed are to produce food for those regions. Instead, they are being used to grow deadly tobacco plants, while more land and forests are being cleared,” the statement reads.

WHO further highlighted that the industry’s carbon footprint from production, processing and transporting tobacco was equivalent to onefifth of Co2 produced by the commercial airlines industry yearly which further contributes to global warming and climate change challenges.

Director of Health Promotion at the WHO, Dr. Rucdiger Krech, noted that about 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil and beaches yearly, adding: “Tobacco products are the most littered items on the planet, containing over 7,000 toxic chemicals, which leech into our environment when discarded.”

While stressing that filters have no proven health benefits, WHO urged policy makers to treat cigarette filters as single used plastics and consider banning them to protect public health and the environment. The WHO, therefore, urged countries and cities to emulate.

France, Spain, San Francisco and California that have adopted the polluter pays principle, which makes the tobacco industry responsible for clearing up the pollution it creates to relieve taxpayers of the costs of cleaning up littered tobacco.

It further advised countries and cities to follow the example and support tobacco farmers to transit to sustainable crops, implement strong tobacco taxes that could also include environmental tax and offer support services to help people quit smoking and the use of other tobacco products.

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