Tobacco’s toll on health, environment starts at production

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Tobacco's toll on health, environment starts at production
Tobacco's toll on health, environment starts at production

Africa-Press – Kenya. Tobacco, a known hazard to human health for long, also causes major harm to the environment, starting from its production, according to a medical doctor and head of an advocacy group against the crop’s use and cultivation.

“Tobacco cultivation deteriorates soil quality and hinders biodiversity. The use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in tobacco farming negatively impacts the soil, human health, and other living organisms,” said Dr. Elif Dagli, who heads the Istanbul-based Sagliga Evet (Yes to Health) Organization.

In an interview with Anadolu to mark World No Tobacco Day, Dagli said that at the manufacturing stage, tobacco products consume 22 billion tons of water annually.

Since 1990, tobacco producers in 120 countries have burned 11.4 million tons of wood to dry tobacco, resulting in the loss of 211,000 hectares (over 520,000 acres) of forestland, she added.

Dagli also emphasized that the tobacco industry pollutes 200,000 hectares of land every year, and to clean this pollution up, China spends $2.6 billion annually, India $766 million, and Brazil and Germany $200 million.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes May 31 as World No Tobacco Day, an opportunity to raise awareness on the harm tobacco causes human health and the environment, as well as to promote a healthy lifestyle.

On the risks tobacco use poses to human health, Dagli said the toxins and nicotine found in it can seep into the bloodstream and flow throughout the body, meaning that no tissue or organ is safe from the damage it can cause.

Every year, about 8 million people worldwide die due to diseases caused by tobacco use, including 1.2 million passive smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, said Dagli, who is a pediatric pulmonologist.

“Tobacco use leads to various health problems, including chemical changes in the brain, addiction, stroke due to blocked blood vessels, cataracts and blindness in the eyes, cancer, impaired sense of smell, inflammation of the teeth and gums, tooth loss, ear infection, hearing loss, circulation issues in the hands, stained fingers, skin discoloration, wrinkling, premature aging, hardening, and blockage of blood vessels in the heart and circulatory system, and coronary artery disease,” she said.

“We shouldn’t allow our health and the well-being of the planet to be harmed just so cigarette companies can get richer,” she said.

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