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Hull City Council

Smoking and the environment

  • Land is diverted away from food production for tobacco farming. This land could produce enough food to feed up to 20 million people.
  • 200 million cigarette butts are thrown away every day in the UK. The plastics they contain will take up to 12 years to decompose.
  • Globally, 6 million trees are cut down every year to make way for tobacco production.
  • In Hull, approximately £900,000 a year is spent on cleaning the city centre which includes collecting 1000 tones of litter – an estimated 400 tonnes (40%) of this debris is smoking related.
Climate Change

The life-cycle of a cigarette has a big impact on the environment.


As global production of tobacco increases, particularly in the developing world, land is being cleared to make way for tobacco farming, and now accounts for an estimated 200,000 hectares of woodland being removed each year.

Climate change

Climate change (global warming) is caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other gases polluting the atmosphere.

The tobacco curing process uses heat to dry the tobacco leaves. In many developing countries this heat is produced by felling and then burning trees, whilst others use gas to fuel burners. Both processes produce large quantities of greenhouse gases. Clearing vegetation removes a natural filter for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, compounding the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.


Hazardous waste

Tobacco production uses large amounts of fertiliser, pesticide and herbicides; many of them are highly toxic substances that ultimately find their way into the soil, watercourses and eventually into the food chain.

The manufacturing processes for cigarettes and cigars create large quantities of waste. The disposal of tobacco slurries, solvents, oils, paper, wood, plastics, packaging materials and airborne pollution all have long term implications for the environment.

Litter pollution

An estimated 40% of street litter is smoking related – that equates to 400 tonnes of cigarette butts, matchsticks, packaging and other smoking debris collected from Hull city centre every year.

122 tonnes of smoking related litter is dropped every day across the UK.

Marine Pollution

Marine pollution

Cigarettes are the principal source of litter on beaches throughout the world. According to Ocean Conservancy, a group that monitors marine pollution, the quantity of discarded cigarette butts collected during its 2010 Annual International Coastal Cleanup, was the equivalent of 95,000 full packets of cigarettes.

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