The detrimental health effects of cigarettes in relation to the body of a smoker are well known, and are actually printed on most advertising and packaging. There is even research that suggests the smoke that is exhaled can have adverse health effects on people, children, and pets that are in the immediate area. One area that is not often considered, however, is the environmental impact that the entire process of smoking has on the planet and its population.
The amount of resources that are spent in order to produce a pack of cigarettes is much higher than some other products. The agricultural methods that are used to produce tobacco use an excessive amount of water and deplete the nutrients in large areas for many years. The plants themselves sometimes have negative reactions with surrounding fields, making it impossible to integrate the crop. The genetic engineering that is involved in creating drought and disease resistant tobacco plants has also caused problems with germination in surrounding areas.
A single cigarette requires paper that is produced from trees, and the filters are made in such a way so that when a smoker is done, the filter still contains many of the thousands of chemicals that are produced. Cigarette butts account for a large percentage of the waste from many countries and can take up to 25 years to decompose. When improperly disposed of, the butts can be consumed by animals in the environment and can cause intestinal blockages. Even after the butts have broken down into component parts, the chemicals from the treated tobacco can contaminate an area so it is unhealthy for habitation.
There are few immediate solutions for many of these problems. Campaigns to reduce or stop smoking are the most effective way to prevent damage to the environment and to people. Advanced agricultural methods can help reduce the water and energy needed to grow tobacco, and new materials can make cigarette filters that are recyclable, although without strong governmental regulations the chemicals they contain can still be harmful.