Can cigarette smoking ever be green? – By Nina Shen Rastogi – Slate Magazine

It’s true: Your nicotine addiction affects the planet as well as your lungs. While there’s nothing you can do to totally absolve your green guilt, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Tobacco is not a particularly green crop. Because it’s very sensitive to disease, it requires a lot of pesticides; in the United States alone, tobacco farmers use 27 million pounds of the stuff every year. That may be a tiny proportion of the 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides used in the United States, but growing tobacco results in the use of more pesticide per acre than raising most other crops. (Potatoes, tomatoes, citrus, grapes, and apples use more.)

Cigarette. Click image to expand.Can cigarette smoking ever be green?Tobacco’s contribution to deforestation also earns plenty of ire from environmentalists. The most common method of drying out tobacco leaves, called flue curing, requires an external heat source. In the developing world, where 85 percent of the world’s tobacco is grown, that’s usually a wood-burning fire. (In the United States, tobacco curing is more likely to be fueled by oil, coal, or liquid petroleum gas.) According to a comprehensive 1999 report published in the journal Tobacco Control, an estimated 494,211 acres of forest and woodland are cleared annually by tobacco farming, comprising about 1.7 percent of total forest-cover losses around the world. (You can rest assured that your vice is less taxing than that of your neighborhood cokehead: Tobacco farming clears only about one-third as much woodland as the cultivation of coca and opium poppies, according to CIA estimates.)

Eco-minded addicts can mitigate some of these costs by switching to organically grown leaf, which at least addresses the pesticide issue. (Organic tobacco is still cured using external heat.) Many smokers swear by American Spirit, which currently produces the only cigarette made with USDA-certified organic tobacco. But while American Spirit’s pesticide-free, sustainable farming efforts are laudable, plenty of environmentalists cry green-washing, given that its parent company is Reynolds American, a subsidiary of the giant British American Tobacco. The Green Lantern, however, would still recommend smoking organic if you’re going to smoke at all.

‘);, and check this space every Tuesday.

 

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