People will give you several reasons to quit smoking, which likely revolve around how the habit is bad for you, damaging your health, and racking up unnecessary medical costs. However, it is not just you who suffers due to your smoking habit. Other people around you and the environment also have to face the negative consequences of smoking.
Damage to the environment
When people leave cigarette butts on the ground, the debris is carried off into drains and eventually lands in rivers or oceans. “Elements of cigarettes like nicotine, metal, and pesticide residues seep into aquatic ecosystems. These elements are extremely toxic to fish, microorganisms, and other marine wildlife.
One lab study showed that the chemicals leached from one cigarette butt while soaked in a liter of water for 24 hours released enough dangerous toxins to kill about half of the saltwater and freshwater fish that were exposed to it for 96 hours,” according to Breazy.
According to one estimate, cigarette butts accounted for almost 38 percent of roadway litter on a per-item basis, making it the most littered item on American highways. In 2019, the Coastal Cleanup program removed almost 1,030,640 cigarette butts from inland waterways and beaches, which accounted for 24 percent of the total debris cleared as part of the program.
One study looked at how roadside waste affected the soil. It found that hydrocarbon levels in the soil were similar to that of littered cigarette butts, meaning that the harmful chemicals in the cigarettes had now become part of the soil.
It is not just cigarette butts that damage the environment. Cigarette tips, lighters, and tobacco wrappers or packages also make up some of the most littered items on the street. Tobacco facilities emitted about 1,312,796 pounds of toxic chemicals in 2015, including stuff like sulfuric acid, ammonia, and nitrate compounds. To make cigarettes, large areas are deforested, which ends up causing an imbalance in that environment.
Bad for others
The second-hand smoke that is released when you puff a cigarette can be very harmful to people around you. Adults who are exposed to such smoke have been found to be up to 30 percent at greater risk of having heart disease and even a stroke. Respiratory illnesses and asthma can develop.
Second-hand smoke can also worsen any preexisting conditions in a person with high blood pressure. Due to their young age, children are even more severely affected by second-hand smoke.
“Babies who breathe second-hand smoke have a greater chance of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)… Children exposed to second-hand smoke have a greater risk of getting lung infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. They also suffer more from chronic coughing, wheezing and breathing problems… Children are more likely to get asthma when exposed to second-hand smoke,” according to Health Link BC.
Children can also get ear infections. And when they grow up, they might end up with brain tumors. Women who inhale second-hand smoke when pregnant are at risk of giving birth to infants with low birth weight.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that second-hand smoke creates about 65,000 fatalities among children every year. The organization has identified more than 7,000 chemical compounds in tobacco smoke, 250 of which have been marked as harmful for human beings, while 69 of them are cancerous.