Cigarette Smoking: An Assessment of Tobacco's Global Environmental Footprint Across Its Entire Supply Chain

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Aug 7;52(15):8087-8094. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b01533. Epub 2018 Jul 23.


While the health effects of cigarette smoking are well recognized and documented, the environmental impacts of tobacco are less appreciated and often overlooked. Here, we evaluate tobacco's global footprint across its entire supply chain, looking at resource needs, waste, and emissions of the full cradle-to-grave life cycle of cigarettes. The cultivation of 32.4 Mt of green tobacco used for the production of 6.48 Mt of dry tobacco in the six trillion cigarettes manufactured worldwide in 2014, were shown to contribute almost 84 Mt CO2 equiv emissions to climate change-approximately 0.2% of the global total, 490 000 tonnes 1,4-dichlorobenzene equiv to ecosystem ecotoxicity levels, and over 22 billion m3 and 21 Mt oil equiv to water and fossil fuel depletion, respectively. A typical cigarette was shown to have a water footprint of 3.7 L, a climate change contribution of 14 g CO2 equiv, and a fossil fuel depletion contribution of 3.5 g oil equiv. Tobacco competes with essential commodities for resources and places significant pressures on the health of our planet and its most vulnerable inhabitants. Increased awareness, as well as better monitoring and assessment of the environmental issues associated with tobacco, should support the current efforts to reduce global tobacco use as an important element of sustainable development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cigarette Smoking*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment
  • Nicotiana
  • Tobacco Products*