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WHO accuses tobacco industry of “greenwashing”

12 May 2022. A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and tobacco watchdog STOP outlines how the tobacco industry has been working to rehabilitate its image by showcasing sustainability efforts that critics claim is a form of “greenwashing”, reports ABC News.

The term refers to a form of disinformation published by an organisation to appear to be environment-friendly and is a common practice in numerous industries. “This kind of activity gives the impression that the tobacco industry is socially and environmentally responsible,” the report warns. “Yet this industry is causing an incalculable toll on health to smokers, non-smokers and farmers. And not only is tobacco harming humans, it is also damaging the environment.”

The aim of the report is to call on governments to ban greenwashing by the tobacco industry and to avoid partnerships with cigarette companies involved in environmental activities that could promote the industry as an environmental partner.

In addition to the greenwashing examples, the report highlights the ecological impact of the tobacco industry. Every year, 32 million tonnes of tobacco leaf is grown worldwide to produce 6 trillion cigarettes, the report said. It takes about 22 billion tons of water to grow the global crop, the equivalent of 8.8 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, and often in places where water is scarce. According to the report, it is estimated that nearly 1.5 billion acres of global forest have been lost to tobacco cultivation since the 1970s,

The report states that “e-cigarette waste is potentially a more serious environmental threat than cigarette butts since e-cigarettes introduce plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, lead, mercury, and flammable lithium-ion batteries into waterways, soils and to wildlife.”

Among its recommendations, the report says it is calling on all governments, especially those that are members of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to ban greenwashing activities. It is also calling on environmental and sustainability accreditation organisations not to support industry greenwashing or provide awards to the tobacco industry.


Find the full report link here