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E-Cigarettes and the Environment – Going Green with E-Cigs

 

There are several reasons why people cite e-cigarettes as the “better alternative” to smoking. For example, cigarettes are causing disastrous consequences for mankind and our environment worldwide. When it comes to our future and our future generations, the environment should be of utmost concern. Fortunately, e-cigarettes are proving to be a much healthier option for the environment.

Cigarettes – Litter, Deforestation, Pollution, and Child Abuse

Cigarette butts (including filters) are the most commonly littered trash in the world. This problem is especially apparent on the world’s beaches, where butts are the single most collected trash item washing up on shore. According to the Center for Tobacco Control, Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco about 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts end up as litter each year. The core of cigarette filters contains the nicotine and many other toxins, leaching these chemicals into the water supply, ground soil, waterways, and the ocean. And it can take from 18 months to 10 years for a cigarette filter to physically decompose.

Sadly, litter is not the only problem with cigarettes. Between the wood burned to heat cure tobacco, to paper, filters, and packaging, an estimated 1.6 million trees are cut down every day to make cigarettes. Not every year. That's 1.6 million trees every day! These numbers are staggering, almost unbelievable, yet these facts are rarely considered.

Tobacco is often grown in impoverished countries, where food is already scarce, thus using precious land needed to feed the people. The crops are frequently and improperly sprayed with pesticides and other toxic chemicals, contaminating local water supplies and farm workers. Tobacco requires heavy fertilization, which farmers in developing countries cannot afford. Tobacco depletes soil of nutrients, necessitating that crops be moved to new and fertile ground, and that requires deforestation.

In addition, children around the world work in tobacco agriculture, including family tobacco farms in the United States. Most of these children are overworked, underpaid, denied education and adequate medical care. Additionally, they are often physically and sexually abused, suffer from work-related injuries, and become ill from nicotine poisoning, commonly called green tobacco sickness. This malady causes dizziness, nausea, headaches, sometimes seizures, and can cause structural changes in the brain and developmental delays. One study showed 66% of children working in tobacco production suffered from green tobacco sickness, and can absorb the nicotine equivalent of 50 cigarettes in one day.

The e-cigarette appears to be opening a new door for a greener future for our world in so many ways.  These include reduced litter and pollution from discarded butts and filters, fewer trees cut down, decreased levels of secondhand smoke, and fewer food shortages in the world. Most importantly, smokers changing from cigarettes to e-cigarettes can help reduce the number of children who work in tobacco production. As that scenario is unfolding, more children will be protected from abuse, victimization, overwork, illness, and neglect of their education and medical care. trees cut down for cigarettes

For more information about the dangers of pesticides used in tobacco production, click here

For information about the hazards for children who work in tobacco production, click here

 

E-Cigarette Vapor versus Second Hand Cigarette Smoke

Toxic secondhand smoke kills 53,000 nonsmokers each year in the United States. That's one nonsmoker for every eight people who die from smoking. When smokers exhale, they release both secondhand and side-stream smoke into the air, wreaking havoc on the health of everyone nearby and the environment in general. And, tragically, second hand smoke can cause Sudden Infant Death (SIDS), and asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections, and allergies in children.

Freakonomics.com recently estimated that smokers produce as much as 84,878 tons of air pollution each year. For comparison, that number is equal to half of the air pollution created by all the cars in the United States. The air pollution from smoking contains harmful compounds that cause disease and threaten our environment, including formaldehyde, ammonia, tar, acetone, arsenic, and carbon monoxide, for starters. These chemicals and many more are present in secondhand smoke.

On the other hand, indoor vaping does not produce the same toxins as tobacco smoking. One study showed the difference between cigarettes and e-cigarettes and their effect on indoor air quality. The research reveals that electronic cigarettes produce less toxic byproducts that exposure to tobacco cigarettes. The study also indicates there is no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed. Also, several studies have shown the air that is around a vaper contains only the amount of toxins as the ambient air itself.

E-Cigarette Waste versus Cigarette Waste

Incredibly, 5.5 trillion cigarettes are produced worldwide every year so it’s not surprising they create so much waste. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, making up about 38% of the improperly discarded trash in the world. But it's not just a litter problem. Most often cigarette butts end up in the worst places, like our water supply.

Cigarette Butts Litter Beaches all over the World

Cigarette Butts Litter Beaches all over the World

Cigarette filters hold toxic chemicals which are released when they are discarded as butts and become wet. These chemicals poison our aquatic friends and bird life when the harmful butts are ingested, often causing death to the animals.

Worse yet, cigarette butts are not biodegradable. Although it can take as long as 26 years for a cigarette butt to break down on a microscopic level,  toxic chemicals from the filter remain in the environment even longer. Every cigarette smoked creates waste. Disposable e-cigarettes, however, dramatically reduce the volume of waste and environmental pollution compared to cigarettes.

Even though disposable e-cigarettes are popular, many users opt for rechargeable and refillable products. Regardless of the electronic cigarette models used, e-cigarettes cut down on waste compared to combustible cigarettes. There is no argument that there is some waste from e-cigs; cartomizers and disposable batteries eventually need to be replaced, and bottles of e-liquid are used up. Fortunately, responsible vapers know that you should not discard a lithium-ion battery and that packaging and e-liquid bottles should be recycled or reused. Still, even if all the e-cigarette waste were to be dumped improperly, the volume and toxicity of cigarette butts will continue to be more of a threat to the environment than any discarded part of e-cigarette products or packaging.

For additional information on the toxicity of cigarette butts and filters, click here:

E-Cigarette Production versus Cigarette Production

As previously mentioned, an astonishing amount of trees (1.6 million every day) are cut down to make cigarettes. These trees are used to heat and cure tobacco, make paper wrappers, filters, and packaging for the cigarette industry. These numbers are shocking to anyone concerned with our world's ecology. In reality, no trees need to be cut down to make e-cigarettes; the only tree material used in producing e-cigarettes is for packaging. That comparison alone makes the production of regular cigarettes so astronomically more damaging to our environment than e-cigs that it's hard to comprehend.

1.5 Million Trees are Cut Down Daily for Cigarette Production

There is little information on how much e-cigarette factories affect the environment through the manufacturing and nicotine extraction processes. It is reasonable to assume, however, that e-cigarette production causes less environmental impact than traditional cigarette production.

 

Conclusion

It will be years before we will know the long term effects of e-cigarettes, however  e-cigarettes have already been proven to cause less harm to the environment than their combustible predecessors. The vapor from e-cigarettes is much less harmful to the environment than old fashioned, combustible tobacco products. E-cigarettes don't produce secondhand or side-stream smoke like cigarettes. Vapor from the use of e-cigarettes indoors exposes non-users to only 10% of the nicotine of secondhand smoke.

Technology associated with e-cigarettes, including cartomizers, batteries and e-liquid production, is environmentally cleaner than cigarettes. More organic compounds are being used instead of non-biodegradable plastics and materials. Responsible vapers can play a huge role in improving our environment by choosing rechargeable and refillable products and properly recycling and disposing of the waste created.

There is still a long-standing debate between cigarette smokers and e-cigarette users about the harm each is contributing to our worldwide pollution. While the effects of smoking tobacco have long been known to be dangerous to our environment, we should not compare smoking pollution to vaping just because both are perceived as similar. That would be a great disservice to ourselves and our environment.  No one can say e-cigarettes do not impact the environment. Of course they do; manufacturing, packaging, and shipping are all required in the e-cigarette business. However, e-cigarettes are still a vast improvement in making our world greener, for ourselves and the future generations of our world.

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