Plastic cigarette filters don’t make smoking safer, says WHO  

The World Health Organisation has said that smoking cigarettes with plastic filters do not make them safer.

According to the WHO, nothwistanding the marketing efforts by the tobacco industry to push cigarette filters as healthy, there has been no evidence to support this claim.

The WHO stated this in a statement it released to commemorate the 2022 World No Tobacco Day. The day is marked every 31st day of May yearly.

The global health agency urged policy makers to treat cigarette filters as what they are – single-use plastics – adding that policymakers should also consider banning them to protect people and the environment.

The WHO reiterated that products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes also add to the build-up of plastic pollution, noting that cigarette filters contain microplastics and make up the second-highest form of plastic pollution worldwide.

In its statement, the WHO stressed that steps should be taken to make the tobacco industry more accountable for the human and environmental damages they have been causing.

The UN health authority said that a majority of tobacco products are grown in low-and middle-income countries where water and farmland which are often desperately needed to produce food for the region are instead being used to grow deadly tobacco plants.

The WHO press statement titled, ‘Tobacco: Poisoning our planet’ stated that the tobacco industry’s carbon footprint from production, processing, and transporting tobacco is equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced by the commercial airline industry each year, adding that it is further contributing to global warming.

Dr. Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO in his remark said that tobacco products are the most littered item on the planet and they contain over 7,000 toxic chemicals, which leech into the environment when discarded. 

“Roughly 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute our oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil and beaches every year,” he said.

“The costs of cleaning up littered tobacco products fall on taxpayers, rather than the industry creating the problem. Each year, this costs China roughly USD 2.6 billion and India roughly USD 766 million. The cost for Brazil and Germany comes in at over USD 200 million).

“Countries like France and Spain and cities like San Francisco, California in the USA have taken a stand.

“Following the Polluter Pays Principle, they have successfully implemented “extended producer responsibility legislation” which makes the tobacco industry responsible for clearing up the pollution it creates.

“WHO urges countries and cities to follow this example, as well as give support to tobacco farmers to switch to sustainable crops, implement strong tobacco taxes (that could also include an environmental tax) and offer support services to help people quit tobacco,” the WHO statement partly reads.

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