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Tobacco and Global Warming

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Having spent most of my professional career focused on activities that ultimately aim to reduce the harm to health caused by tobacco, you won’t be surprised to hear that I believe its one of the most important issues affecting human health. But every now and again even I have to admit that there are a few things that are going to have an even greater impact on the health of people on planet earth. One of those is clearly the increased pollution of our planet and the consequent climate change.

Last summer, I took my eldest daughter (Georgia) to see the Al Gore movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”. We found it very convincing and whether you like Al Gore or not, I’d recommend that you get it out on DVD and watch it with your family if you havn’t seen it already. Even if you don’t like the statistical stuff, its hard to argue with photographs of massive lakes that have dried up, glaciers that have melted and polar bears that have all but run out of ice. Of course in the United States some people can’t get past the politics (i.e the fact that Gore is a Democrat) and so think this global warming stuff is probably just some liberal, left-wing, tree-hugging, anti-business, mumbo-jumbo propaganda. It would be great if that’s all it is. Unfortunately the evidence is crystal clear. 22 of the hottest years ever recorded on the planet have occurred since 1980 and 2005 was THE hottest ever. This website provides some of the evidence:
http://www.pewclimate.org/global-warming-basics/basic_science/

In the last few years the world’s top scientists have reviewed the evidence and have come to the conclusion that not only is the planet heating up but that human activities (primarily burning fossil fuels and other activities emitting greenhouse gases) are the cause (rather than just some random fluctuation). I’m no expert so I wouldn’t want you to take my word for it, but feel free to check out what the experts think:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

So what can we do? Again I’m no expert, but this site has useful suggestions and information: http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/

My own personal opinion is that suggestions that we all drive less, take the bike/bus etc are too inconvenient to follow and so people just won’t. Just like with tobacco, it’s really all about money and power. So I think the most important thing we can do as individuals is find out more about this threat to our families and our world, do our best to consider the environmental impact of the products we buy, but most importantly, only vote for politicians who are taking this thing seriously and are willing to implement policies that move us towards a solution. This goes all the way from your local township (can kids and adults walk or safely ride their bike around the neighborhood, or do the sidewalks stop and the end of the development so we all need to drive wherever we go?) all the way up to the presidential elections (who took the most funding from the oil companies and hired former oil company folks as “advisers”?).

So what does all this have to do with tobacco? To be honest, not a lot. I just thought that on this day (07/07/07) when the issue is being raised via the Live Earth concerts it deserved a mention on its own merits. There are, however, a couple of links to tobacco. One is of course the similarity between big tobacco and big oil. We can be certain that the big oil companies will be using all their (considerable) influence to prevent proper steps being taken on this issue, while simultaneously trying to do a good PR job of seeming warm and fuzzy. The other relevance is the fact that tobacco is itself a major cause of environmental pollution, both from the cigarette smoke itself and even more so from the industrial processes involved in bringing cigarettes to market.

For more information on tobacco’s environmental effects check out this site:
http://www.ash.org.uk/html/factsheets/html/fact22.html
If you needed another reason to quit smoking, this should give you one.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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