The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) joins Governments, Civil Society Organizations, and individuals worldwide to commemorate the World Environment Day 2022 under the theme ‘Only one Earth’, highlighting the need for positive environmental action, encouraging worldwide awareness and commitment to transformational changes in our policies and choices towards a cleaner and greener environment.
Tobacco production accounts for 5% of global deforestation. Tobacco cultivation requires substantial inputs of labor (often by children), land, fertilizer, and water while producing enormous toxicity to land and water ecosystems. Both land clearance for cultivation and the burning of wood and charcoal for curing tobacco are major contributors to air pollution and water scarcity.
Research has found that growing tobacco contributes to deforestation, especially in the developing world which promotes soil degradation and “failing yields” and becomes a peril to food security. The tobacco industry contributes to climate change and reduces climate resilience, wasting resources and damaging ecosystems necessary for human society, making it a threat to our livelihood and very existence.
Tobacco products damage the environment at every stage of their lifecycle, not to mention the health impact on users and even secondhand smokers. Tobacco use increases the risk of diseases such as cancer, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, etc. and accounts for over 100 million deaths globally which is estimated to rise to 1 billion if current smoking patterns continue.
The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), endeavour to bring to the attention of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the indiscriminate disposal of cigarette butts, tobacco’s most commonly used product especially along our beaches.
Discarded cigarette butts represent the first source of plastic pollution in the world, they are the most littered item with more than 5 trillion butts dumped unconsciously and inexcusably into the global environment each year. Nearly all cigarettes contain filters made of cellulose acetate, a plastic product, making discarded butts a non-biodegradable toxic waste. As such, they create an environmental blight on streets, sidewalks, waterways, and other public areas.
In addition to being a public nuisance, laboratory studies on cigarette butts have found that the substances leaching out of them are acutely toxic to both fresh and saltwater fish, and aquatic micro-organisms.
Given these substantial life cycle-related environmental impacts, among others, the tobacco industry’s long-standing refusal to prevent, reduce and mitigate their toxic, polluting activities necessitates the adoption of strong policies, laws and regulations at all levels of governance that either mandate required responses or place responsibility directly on industry’s shoulders, making them pay for the harm they cause.
VALD calls on governments and policymakers to step up legislation, including implementing and strengthening existing schemes, such as the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control; Among the important binding obligations under the FCTC, Article 9 calls for regulation of the contents of tobacco products, Article 18 obligates Parties to protect the environment and people’s health in relation to agriculture and manufacturing of tobacco products, and Article 19 compels Parties to consider taking legislative action to address the issue of industry liability for the adverse consequences of tobacco use.
A company that kills 8 million people a year, leaving many with chronic conditions has no social value. The so-called social responsibility (CSR) activities such as Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) is just a false notion to divert attention from the actual harm their products pose. Their CSR initiatives are of no good as their products.
“Together we can help ensure that this unique and beautiful planet which is ‘Our Only Earth’ remains a comfortable home for humanity and the environment. We can further avoid the worst of the climate crisis, protect and revive degraded ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just need to act now”.
Vision for Alternative Development –VALD Ghana
Executive Director of Programmes: Vision for Alternative Development