Is Vaping an Eco-Friendly Alternative to Tobacco Cigarettes?
You’ve probably heard of all the many reasons for replacing your tobacco cigarettes with a vape. The most well-known being that it can significantly benefit your health. There’s an abundance of information out there outlining the ways that vaping can change your life, and the lives of those around you, for the better. But less commonly discussed is the topic of how vaping benefits the environment.
The effects of cigarette smoking are catastrophic. Almost every part of the lifecycle of tobacco poses a threat to the environment, all the way from manufacture to the act of smoking and even disposal. With 4.5 trillion cigarette butts being dropped to the curb and on beaches each year, it's no surprise that cigarettes are the single most littered items in the world.
Let’s take a deeper look at how smoking affects the environment, and how the use of e-cigarettes can help the mission to combat global warming.
Recycling Your Cigarettes and Vapes
The biggest challenge facing organizations across the globe is ensuring their products are as recyclable or eco-friendly as possible, with industry leaders adapting their manufacturing process and packaging to minimize their impact on the planet. Unfortunately, it seems the smoking enterprise didn’t get the memo.
Cigarette butts are non-biodegradable and can take anywhere from 18 months to 12 years to completely decompose. The hazardous chemicals contained in them are left to leach into the surrounding land and water, eventually accumulating to hamper soil fertility and kill marine life. When you consider that the average smoker discards thousands of butts per year, the numbers (and effects) really start to stack up.
Vaping devices on the other hand, are typically a longer-term investment. Each vaping pod/cartridge will last the average vaper anywhere from 200 to 400 puffs (depending on the pod volume) which is equivalent to 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes. In addition, most brands now produce refillable e-liquid pods, so users can essentially recycle the same pod for months on end, with the device itself lasting for years. That is a significantly lower waste/recycling burden.
To further benefit the environment, most of the parts that make up your vape device can be recycled or at least safely discarded.
The plastic bottles used to store e-liquids are widely accepted by local recycling centres. The lithium-ion batteries in vaping devices have an impressive lifespan and are rechargeable. When the time for disposal does come, they can be dropped off in any one of numerous designated battery recycling containers available throughout the country. Not only does this prevent dangerous sparking and acid leaks, it also means you don't have to throw them in the general household waste bin.
All in all, if you separate a vaping device into its main parts including the packaging, metal casings, and glass, the majority of the materials can be individually recycled.
Reducing the Emissions of Tobacco Companies
On a 20 cigarettes a day habit, smokers will pay out an average of $5,110 annually, and almost $204,000 over the course of 40 years. It's this influx of cash that keeps successful smoking companies in business, and as a result, their factories continue to have a devastating impact on the environment.
In a 2015 study published by the World Health Organization (WHO), it was revealed that at the start of the century, global tobacco manufacturing produced an estimated;
- 2,000,000 tonnes of solid waste
- 300,000 tonnes of nicotine waste and;
- 200,000 tonnes of chemical waste.
These numbers have now increased to a whopping 5 to 6.3 trillion cigarettes produced annually, with tobacco factories depositing a total of;
- 45,000,000 tonnes of solid waste
- 6,000,000 tonnes of nicotine waste and;
- almost 4,000,000 tonnes of chemical waste
The numbers are staggering. So too are the effects. Harmful gases contribute to air pollution and global warming, and chemical waste contaminates major waterways causing damage to marine life. Not to mention the harmful effects it has on the health of the surrounding population.
As more people switch to the more environmentally friendly e-cigarettes, companies responsible for the rise in harmful chemical pollution will see a significant drop in funding, which, in turn, will drastically reduce the emissions produced by tobacco factories.
The Footprint of Individual Vapers and Smokers
The fumes found in cigarette smoke contain an abundance of harmful toxins. So much so, that the results of a controlled experiment conducted by Tobacco Control uncovered that the air pollution caused by just 3 average cigarettes is tenfold the amount caused by the exhaust of a diesel car.
The most significant smoke pollutants are carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are some of the predominant greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Eventually, the pollution caused by tobacco smoke can agitate existing respiratory diseases, as well as cause health conditions such as emphysema, asthma, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease.
On the other hand, vaping produces no smoke at all and as it stands, there are very few proven health risks of second-hand vaping. At the very least, we know that it is much ‘cleaner’ in comparison to the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke. Even the low dosage of chemicals found in e-cigarettes stay well within the bounds of acceptable environmental levels.
Cigarettes and Deforestation
Global tobacco farming has caused billions of hectares of rainforest to be wiped out. But why is this so dangerous?
Trees take up most of the carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into oxygen. Increased deforestation over the years has bolstered greenhouse gas emissions to the point of staggering damage, causing the threat of global warming to intensify. It has also disrupted the natural water cycle, which has resulted in desertification of many areas. And probably the most heartbreaking effect is that forests are home to a variety of animals, so clearing them can result in extinction of species.
Not to mention that upwards of 4 million hectares of fertile, flourishing land has been irreparably weakened as a result of the tobacco monocropping industry. Growing tobacco as a monocrop is an agricultural process that requires an increased use of pesticides as well as a dependency on artificial fertilizers, both of which are a tremendous plague on surrounding land.
In contrast, no paper is required to manufacture electronic cigarettes, apart from that used for packaging and manuals. As a result, comparably fewer trees are cut down for the vaping industry than those cleared by tobacco companies.
Saving the World One Vape at a Time
There's no doubt that smoking is a dangerous habit both for the smoker and the environment. And with an estimated 55 million adult vapers by 2021, it seems many ex-smokers have already made the commitment to a greener tomorrow. It has been encouraging to see that even in its youth, the vaping industry is striving toward greener engineering and production.
We cannot say that vaping has no effect on the environment, that would be untrue. The industry is still relatively new, and the impacts of vaping are still to be thoroughly researched. However, we can safely say that vaping is a more eco-friendly alternative to cigarette smoking.