Tobacco Is Killing Us And Our Planet – Dr Gan Shiz Yee & Assoc Prof Dr Farizah Mohd Hairi

There are six trillion cigarettes consumed annually, and 4.5 trillion of them are discarded worldwide.

In conjunction with World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2022, it is worth highlighting the fact that tobacco is killing us and our planet. 

Do you know that six billion trees have been chopped down to make cigarettes, 84 million tonnes of CO2 emissions are released into the air raising the global temperature, and 22 billion litres of water are used to manufacture cigarettes?

All these are adding unnecessary pressure on our already resource-scarce planet. 

The story does not end there. There are six trillion cigarettes consumed annually, and 4.5 trillion of them are discarded worldwide.

The cigarette, once lit up, pollutes the air, and its environmental effect lingers in the form of non-biodegradable butts, even long after it has been stubbed out.

This is how the tobacco industry destroys our environment and further harms human lives.

Tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) is recognised as one of the foremost avoidable contributors to the world’s mortality statistics. It is a key modifiable risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected that tobacco use leads to the premature deaths of about eight million people worldwide annually. This estimate includes approximately 1.2 million non-smokers who are also foreseen to die due to second-hand cigarette smoke. 

As the country transitions into endemicity, almost all economic sectors have gradually returned to normal. Dine-ins are now allowed, but please be reminded that smoking, including vaping, is prohibited in both indoor, air-conditioned and outdoor, open-air eateries.

The law came into effect in January 2020 under the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2018. 

While many has criticised the Ministry of Health (MOH) for not conducting proper enforcement, every citizen should show social responsibility. You are the agent in safeguarding smoke-free places.

See it, stop it and report it. You can report to either the shop owners, the local health authority, or the MOH, via the hotline at 010-860 8949. Ideally, the hotline should be displayed at all gazetted smoke-free locations, to ease the process of reporting by the public.

For smokers, please be considerate and not light up when there are other people around, especially in presence of children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses.

Speak to health care professionals to get further advice and assistance in quitting at the nearest health care facility or virtually through   

All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no such thing as a safe nicotine level or safe exposure level. It is everyone’s right to breathe unpolluted air. We need more smoke-free areas in the country.

In tandem with many other tobacco control policies, Generational End Game (GEG) is the way forward. It is our responsibility to protect the next generation against this harmful product.

The University of Malaya is the first university in Malaysia to launch a Policy for the Control of Tobacco and Smoking Products on World No Tobacco Day 2022. The aim is to protect the health of all students, employees, and visitors by providing a safe and healthy campus environment that is free of tobacco and smoking products.

In line with the National Strategic Plan on Tobacco Control 2021-2030 and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) recommendations, the policy embraces several essential components:

  • Ask all newcomers (students and staff) about their smoking status.
  • Provide support for staff and students who intend to quit smoking.
  • Ban advertising, sponsorships, distribution and/or sale of tobacco products and other smoking products.
  • Prohibit any acceptance of sponsorship from the tobacco industry for research projects, and any financial assistance to any staff and students.  

The absence of tobacco will lead to a healthier planet and healthier people. Together, we should fight for a clean environment, since it is our obligation to preserve our planet for us to continue living in a healthy environment. 

Dr Gan Shiz Yee and Assoc Prof Dr Farizah Mohd Hairi are from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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