Welcome to the teachers section of "smoke’s no joke". We aim to arm you with all the information you need to tackle smoking issues in school.

Environmental effects


The life cycle of a cigarette takes a heavy toll on the environment.


Every tonne of tobacco produced requires approximately 12 cubic metres of woodland. As global production of tobacco increases, particularly in the developing world, more and more land is being cleared to make way for tobacco farming. This now accounts for an estimated 200,000 hectares of woodland being removed each year. Globally, 600 million trees are cut down every year to make space for tobacco production (source ASH 2009).

Clearing vegetation also removes a natural filter for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, compounding the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Food production

Tobacco production thrives in semi-arid conditions and deforested land is prone to desertification and becomes unfit for agriculture.

The amount of land diverted towards tobacco farming and away from food production could provide food for an estimated 10 to 20 million people (ASH 2009).

Climate Change

Climate change

Climate change (global warming) is caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other gases polluting the atmosphere. The tobacco curing process uses heat to dry the tobacco leaves. In many developing countries this heat is produced by felling and then burning trees, whilst others use gas to fuel burners. Both processes produce large quantities of harmful greenhouse gases.

Toxic substances


Tobacco production uses large amounts of fertiliser, pesticide and herbicides, many of them highly toxic substances. The levels and effects of these chemicals are not measured generally, but it is known that they leach into the surrounding soil and ultimately find their way into watercourses and eventually into the food chain. It is also believed that this has led to the genetic evolution of a pesticide-resistant breed of mosquito, making the control of diseases such as malaria much harder.

Tobacco workers are also prone to a disease called Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS) caused by absorbing nicotine from the wet tobacco leaves.

Hazardous waste

The manufacturing processes for cigarettes and cigars create large quantities of waste. The disposal of tobacco slurries, solvents, oils, paper, wood, plastics, packaging materials and airborne pollution all have long term implications for the environment.

200 million cigarette butts are discarded in the UK every day (contributing to a daily total of 122 tonnes of smoking related litter). In most cases, the cigarette butt is the filter which is made from cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that can take up to 12 years to decompose (encams 2012). www.encams.org

Litter pollution

In Hull, approximately £900,000 a year is spent on cleaning the city centre which includes collecting 1000 tones of litter. It is estimated that 40% of street litter is smoking related – that equates to an annual haul of 400 tonnes of cigarette butts, matchsticks, packaging and other smoking debris.

Marine Pollution

Marine pollution

Cigarettes are the principal source of litter on beaches throughout the world. According to Ocean Conservancy, a group that monitors marine pollution, the quantity of discarded cigarette butts collected during its 2010 Annual International Coastal Cleanup, was the equivalent of 95,000 full packets of cigarettes.

For more information please refer to Ocean Conservancy

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