How Smoking Affects Us All Through Its Environmental Impact

Making the mistake of thinking smoking only affects the smoker is more detrimental than you might think. Each year, millions of tons of cigarette filters (butts) find their way into waterways and ecosystems, thousands of metric tons of C02 and other chemicals are pumped into the air via tobacco production, and millions of gallons of toxic waste are produced.

The tobacco industry is a powerhouse of destruction, whose effects are far-reaching and often hidden behind-the-scenes. After all, the tobacco industry spends billions every year to convince you that you need their products. The truth is, smoking is one of the most destructive habits you can adopt.

Here, we’ll cover just how much smoking is affecting the environment. From toxic waste to air quality and beyond, the truth might just surprise you. We can only hope it helps to convince you to put down the cigarettes once and for all!


How many cigarette butts do you think you saw on the street today? A dozen? Three dozen? A hundred? One of the most sobering facts about cigarettes and the tobacco industry is that the filters on the end of each cigarette often end up on the ground or in waterways; accounting for a large percentage of waste. In fact, cigarette butts are the most littered item on Earth.

The Earth has a litter problem. Each day, the average person produces around 4-5 pounds of trash. That’s about 20 pounds per day for a family of four or 7,300 pounds per year. This is the trash that actually makes it into the proper containers and doesn’t account for the thousands of tons of litter that is created each year.

Improper disposal leaves things like cigarette butts in places where they don’t belong. Not only do these things affect flora and fauna, but they also fund their way into waterways, polluting fresh and saltwater sources. The bottom line? We’re being incredibly irresponsible as smokers.

The Industry

The tobacco industry is a hulking mass of lobbying, corporate profits, and a total disregard for human health or the health of our one home: the Earth. We don’t get a do-over here. The Earth is the only inhabitable and sustainably inhabitable planet that we know of. If we don’t take care of it now, we’re going to start paying for it in the very near future.

The tobacco industry destroys ecosystems from the planting process all the way through cultivation, processing, and eventual sale of a complete tobacco product. To begin with, tobacco farms require large swaths of land, which are often created by extensive deforestation. Deforestation destroys entire species, ecosystems, and landscapes. Not to mention, it also affects our oxygen levels.

While a large percentage of Earth’s oxygen actually comes from algae and phytoplankton, trees and other plants still play a huge role in providing us with breathable air. We’re essentially trading high-quality oxygen for cigarette smoke.

Once the deforestation is complete, the growing process begins. This often involves heavy spraying of fertilizers and pesticides. These often contain chemicals that are fatal if consumed. They end up in waterways, soil, and the final tobacco product.

With the tobacco grown, farming equipment that uses fossil fuels to operate is used to cultivate the crops and ship them to processing centers. There, huge amounts of energy are used to process the tobacco into your final cigarette, pouch, etc. The shipping process also involves the consumption of fossil fuels to transport tobacco products to your favorite stores.

Toxic Waste

Toxic waste is a major issue for tobacco farming. From pesticide and fertilizer run-off to waste byproducts from processing, the tobacco industry pumps millions of gallons of harmful waste into the environment every year. This waste eventually finds its way into freshwater and the ocean, causing extensive damage. This is just one industry among thousands that creates such waste; imagine what the true impact looks like as a whole!

This is part of the reason why so many people are choosing tobacco alternatives ( Not only do tobaccoless products guide us away from the tobacco itself, but the industry also doesn’t create nearly as much waste or toxic run-off.

Air Quality

With billions of cigarettes being smoked around the world each day, the air quality of our planet is being affected as well. Imagine being in a room with one hundred smokers. You probably wouldn’t be able to breathe, right? Smoking releases thousands of toxic chemicals into the air, and you don’t have to be the one smoking to inhale them and inherit the risks associated with them.

It’s Time To Quit

Smoking is both a public health crisis and an alarm bell for environmental impact. It’s time we realize the true extent of the damage we’re causing by supporting big tobacco, not just to ourselves as smokers, but also to the Earth and the people around us. It’s time to quit.