A Better World 101
The simple answer is that the environmental impact of vaping is considerably lower than that of smoking. We already know how harmful smoking can be for your health, but it also has a very negative effect on the world around. This harm comes in the form of litter, ground pollution, air pollution and the impact on forests as a surprising number of trees are cut down to produce cigarettes. Vaping on the other hand has far less of an impact on the environment and doesn’t use the same harmful chemicals as smoking.
As with a lot of the details surrounding vaping, there are myths and misunderstandings about how vaping affects the environment. Let’s explore how vaping impacts the world around us and comparing this to the impact of smoking to see how much better vaping is for the environment.
Not only is vaping a great way to help quit smoking as it almost doubles your chances of quitting for good, it’s also much better for the world in general.
Smoking and Litter
Litter is perhaps the most obvious effect that smoking has on the environment. We’ve all seen piles of cigarette butts in the gutter or cluttering the pavements. So, let’s start by considering how much of an impact this discarded waste has on the environment.
Cigarette butts are the most common piece of waste washed up on our beaches and tonnes of them are discarded every year. These cigarette butts are not biodegradable so they remain filling up our streets and beaches for years. On top of this, each cigarette butt also contains chemicals such as arsenic and lead which contaminate our water and soil.
When it comes to growing tobacco, practices vary a lot around the world. This crop can be grown organically and in a way that encourages healthy soil, but the majority of tobacco farming uses pesticides and chemical fertilisers that can cause environmental problems.
These environmental problems vary, but in many countries tobacco farming harms soil condition and leads to deforestation. The pollution from pesticides and chemical fertilisers then goes on to further disrupt the ecosystem, causing long term damage.
Tobacco farming also drains nutrients from the soil as tobacco is more intensive to farm than most other crops. This can cause more long term problems if left unchecked.
While the number of harmful chemicals in cigarettes might not be surprising, the environmental impact of manufacturing cigarettes is often overlooked. A large amount of wood is needed to produce cigarette paper and during the curing process of tobacco. In fact, over a million trees are estimated to be cut down every day in order to produce cigarettes.
In addition to the number of trees needed, the process of curing tobacco and producing cigarettes requires large volumes of dangerous chemicals. These chemicals can be disposed of safely, with no risk to the environment, but that is not always the case. Around the world controls on the disposal of chemicals vary and in some countries the chemicals used to produce cigarettes are discarded in a manner that damages the environment.
Smoking and Air Quality
Air quality is another obvious effect that smoking has on the environment. Second hand smoke is estimated to kill more than ten thousand people each year in the UK alone and this is just part of what exhaled cigarettes smoke does.
Many of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes are released into the air during smoking, these chemicals include formaldehyde, ammonia, arsenic and carbon monoxide as well as many more. It is estimated that smokers produce thousands of tons of these airborne chemicals each year and these poisons are harmful to us and our environment.
Vaping and Litter
While a vaping kit might be bulkier than the average cigarette they are often reusable and generate less waste than cigarettes. Refill bottles, vaping equipment and even batteries are widely recyclable. So, when you’ve finished with your kit or refills they can be recycled instead of dumped in landfills, or onto the streets like cigarette butts.
Vaping doesn’t produce much in the way of litter, especially not when compared to the tonnes of cigarette butts that clog up our gutters.
It might surprise some people to learn that the production of e-liquids is actually far safer and better for the environment than cigarettes.
Around 95% of each e-liquid is made from a base of water with propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG) which are already commonly mass produced for the food industry. The remaining volume is made up of flavourings which are also produced for the food industry, making e-liquid production no more harmful to the environment than soft drinks or desserts.
Vaping equipment is almost entirely made of metal and plastic which are commonly recyclable unlike cigarettes. They also don’t require large numbers of trees or wide scale and often harmful farming practices.
Being made of recyclable components gives vaping equipment a much lower impact on the environment. Most vaping kits in use today are reusable and can last years before needing to be replaced meaning that the majority of vaping production is focused on e-liquids which we know to be much less harmful to the environment than cigarettes.
Vaping and Air Quality
The vapour released when vaping is significantly less harmful than cigarette smoke. Research has shown that this vapour contains almost none of the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals produced by smoking.
Studies have also shown that while vaping indoors does produce some lingering particles like nicotine and other chemicals, this is in far smaller quantities than smoking. So, in general our air quality would be improved if all smokers moved onto vaping and quit cigarettes for good.
The impact of vaping on the environment is far less significant than the impact of smoking. But it is perhaps surprising how much of a difference there is. Between the air pollutants, litter, chemicals harming the earth and trees cut down during production, smoking is very harmful to the world around us.