World No Tobacco Day 2022: How the tobacco industry is killing our planet and people – Make Smoking History

Skip to main content.
Make Smoking History logo
Start of main content

World No Tobacco Day 2022: How the tobacco industry is killing our planet and people

This World No Tobacco Day, the theme is ‘Threat to our environment’ – so we’re sharing everything you need to know about the impact of smoking on the environment.

Graphic with title

We all know smoking damages our health, it kills eight million people globally every year, but it’s also killing our planet too.

Every step in the supply chain of tobacco causes devastating damage to our ecosystems – from farming and manufacturing tobacco to smoking and litter.

Watch this video from the World Health Organisation.

Production of cigarettes and tobacco

Six trillion cigarettes are produced globally each year – which requires 5.3 million hectares of farm land and requires more than 22 billion tonnes of water. The cultivation of tobacco crops contributes to pollution, soil degradation and deforestation, which in turn contributes to climate change and loss of biodiversity.

But the greatest direct impact on the environment is reported to come from the manufacturing process, and the energy use required. Over 32.4 million tonnes of green tobacco is used to produce 6.48 million tonnes of dry tobacco – which is then used to create the six trillion cigarettes produced annually.

Processing and manufacturing is carried out in 500 factories across the world, and produces around 25 megatons of solid waste, 55 megatons of waste water and 84 megatons of CO2 emissions. This makes up around 0.2% of the total global carbon emissions.

Smoking and litter

Tobacco smoke contributes to air pollution by releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. But the biggest long-term harm to the environment comes from cigarette filters.


For the past 20 years, cigarette filters are reported to be the most commonly littered item in the world – and makes up the vast majority of littered items.

Being predominantly made of plastic, they’re also the most common form of plastic waste in the world, and can take up to 10 years to completely degrade.

Not only is the plastic harmful, but they also release toxic residual chemicals from inside the used filter. These include arsenic and lead, which leaks into the environment and directly harms wildlife that may come into contact with it. But it also poisons marine environments too – according to Keep Britain Tidy, even just one cigarette filter per 1 litre of water is highly toxic to fish.

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), found 82% of people agreed that cigarette filters containing plastic should be banned to protect the environment.

ASH estimates also reveal that in Greater Manchester:

  • Around 18 million cigarettes are smoked every day – 2.73 million of which are estimated to be filtered cigarettes
  • This results in 168 tonnes of waste annually and 70 tonnes of discarded street litter

If you smoke, World No Tobacco Day (31 May) is the perfect time to try quitting – not only for your health, but for the health of our planet.

Where to get help to quit smoking?

Get personalised support to quit smoking from your Local Stop Smoking Service, GP or pharmacist. Or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline free on 0300 123 1044.

Greater Manchester residents can also get six months’ free access to the Smoke Free app – usually worth £60 – when they sign up at (T&Cs apply).