Wider Costs of Smoking

Smoking has a bigger impact than just what it does to your health and your wallet. Find out how it has an impact on child labour and on the environment.

The cost to the environment


Producing tobacco involves cutting down a lot of trees. Forests are cleared to grow tobacco but the biggest problem is the number of trees that are cut down for fuel to dry tobacco.

Tobacco is cured (dried) by heating the tobacco through burning wood. Nearly nine million acres of forests are cut down each year for fuel for curing.

Pollution and wildlife

  • Tobacco farmers need to use lots of fertiliser and pesticides to protect the tobacco as it grows. Unlike food crops where the use of chemicals are strictly controlled, chemicals spayed on tobacco can vary and can get into the local water supply.
  • 122 tons of cigarette butts, matches and tobacco packaging are estimated to be littered each day throughout the UK. Some people think that cigarette filters are bio-degradable (able to decompose/break up naturally). Cigarette filters are made of a form of plastic that takes more than 10 years to bio-degrade.
  • Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other sea creatures, who mistake them for food.

Child labour and smoking

Around 86% of the world’s tobacco is grown in the developing world. Producing tobacco can be expensive so tobacco farmers use child labour to cut costs.

Children working on tobacco plantations often miss school and have to carry out the same work an adult does.

Tobacco harvesters can be affected by Green Tobacco sickness. People who harvest tobacco leaves absorb the nicotine through their skin, causing a variety of symptoms including vomiting, dizziness, headaches and difficulty breathing.

Find out more about smoking at Choices for Life.