Bengaluru: Smoking has the same effect on the environment and human beings as vehicular pollution does at a traffic junction in Malleswaram!
“In the last 10 years, the sale of tobacco products in Karnataka has gone exponentially high. It causes high air pollution and also, growing of tobacco causes high levels of soil erosion,” says Assistant Director at Institute of Public Health, Dr Upendra Bhojani.
The effect of tobacco on soil erosion was discovered by Indian Agricultural Research Institute scientists in 1962. In May last year, the environment ministry informed the parliamentary panel on forest and environment that it has never studied environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation and curing. The ministry, however, informed the House panel that forests near tobacco cultivation areas are on the decline.
Dr Bhojani said, “There is degradation of soil because of heavy use of agrichemicals and depletion of nutrients. Tobacco curing requires a large amount of firewood often leading to deforestation.”
Mr Mahesh Kashyap, a consultant with the Centre for Sustainable Development, an NGO at Indiranagar, says, “Mainstream and side-stream are the two types of smoking which wreak havoc on the environment. Particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres are major components of the smoke emitting from cigarettes which can enter the lungs leading to serious health hazards. While carbon monoxide is the major pollutant of mainstream smoking, benzene, styrene, xylene and ethyl benzene are emitted from sidestream smoking which is dangerous not only for health, but also the environment.”
Commenting on the conflict of interest between the health ministry and non-health ministries, Dr Bhojani said, “While the health ministry wants to bring down smoking, the commerce ministry came up with the Tobacco Board of India, which aims to increase the export of tobacco!”
The forest report of 2014 stated that the highest instances of burning forests happen in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh....