Do Yourself and Mother Earth a Favor: Don’t Smoke

April 22, 2013

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Today is Earth Day, and we couldn’t let the day pass without pointing out that cigarettes are not only the world’s number one cause of preventable death, they’re also a major cause of air, land and water pollution.

Secondhand smoke is harmful air pollution.  According to the U.S. Surgeon General, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer.  It’s proven to cause lung cancer and heart disease in non-smoking adults. Among infants and children, it causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia, ear infections and more severe asthma attacks.

It’s time to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air with strong smoke-free laws like those that have been adopted in 30 U.S. states and a growing number of countries around the world.

Cigarettes butts also pollute land and water.  In fact, butts are the number one littered item on U.S. highways and on beaches and waterways worldwide. According to Legacy (which recently launched the “Rethink Butts” campaign), “The dangers from smoking don’t stop once a cigarette is stubbed out. Cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals and carcinogens that pollute the environment. They’re poisonous to wildlife and can contaminate water sources.”

Despite the clear environmental damage cigarettes cause, one tobacco company continues to mislead consumers about the environmental and health hazards of its cigarettes. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., a Reynolds American subsidiary and maker of Natural American Spirit cigarettes, advertises their cigarettes as “natural,” “100% additive-free,” “organic” and even “eco-friendly.”  One ad implies the cigarettes contain just “tobacco & water.”

It’s a textbook example of what has been called “greenwashing,” defined by Wikipedia as “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.”

There is no evidence that Natural American Spirit cigarettes are less deadly – or contain any fewer toxins – than any other cigarette brand.  These cigarettes are also no less likely to pollute the air or become litter than any other cigarettes. Consumers should not be deceived: There is nothing healthy or environmentally responsible about Natural American Spirit cigarettes or any cigarettes.

Do yourself and Mother Nature a favor this Earth Day: Quit smoking. And if you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking is never an environmentally-friendly activity, despite what cigarette manufacturers might have you believe.