It’s obvious that there are many great reasons to choose electronic cigarettes over their analog counterparts. Cost, health, and taste are some of the most obvious factors but they aren’t the only reasons to make the switch. What you may not know is that electronic cigarettes also constitute a softer ecological impact compared to tobacco products!
Let’s talk for a bit about the ecological repercussions that come from smoking ‘analog’ cigarettes. Generally, these can be broken down into three categories: air pollution, water/ ground pollution, and deforestation/ paper waste. By switching to e-cigarettes, smokers are able to choose a greener lifestyle.
Deforestation and Paper Waste
This is perhaps the most straightforward aspect of the ecological impact of ‘analog’ cigarettes. Papers, filters and packaging materials all require tree products (filters are a wood pulp by-product). Even though a great deal of the world’s paper consumption comes from renewable resources, a significant amount of the paper supply, especially mass-produced products bent on maintaining the lowest prices possible, comes from the non-renewable rain forest, disrupting the global ecological balance and creating ecological disasters. While all nicotine is derived from plants, the use of e-cigarettes still involves fewer paper products.
After each puff of a cigarette, more than 4,000 harmful chemicals are released into the air. A controlled experiment whose results were released in 2004 suggested that tobacco cigarettes produced more unhealthy air pollutants than a diesel engine. The study tracked particulate matter levels in the air over a period of time from both sources, and after a few hours the tobacco-affected air was seen to have ten times as many harmful particles as the air around the diesel engine.
(Read more about this particular issue here)
E-cigarettes, on the other hand, produce exponentially fewer chemicals on exhalation. Report findings from a team at the Buffalo, N.Y. -based Roswell Park Cancer Institute showed that ‘analog’ cigarettes produced 9,450 times the number of chemicals that were present in e-cig vapor, making it better for your lungs, for the lungs of those around you, and for the atmosphere.
Water & Ground Pollution
The primary component of analog cigarettes that produces air and water pollutants is the filter. The material in the filter is processed from tree fibers, and as the smoker inhales it fulfills its function, absorbing some of the chemicals that would have entered the smoker’s body. While cigarette marketing tries to remind us to throw away cigarette butts in proper receptacles, many end up outside buildings and in street gutters, washing into municipal water supplies. Even those that are disposed of properly find themselves among other pollutants found in landfills, finding their way into the local groundwater, or are dumped into the ocean.
With an estimated billion smokers worldwide, the number of filters adds up. 4000 chemicals per puff, approximately 10-15 puffs per cigarette, 10-40 cigarettes per day, and the magnitude of the problem begins to show itself.
While electronic cigarettes aren’t a perfect solution to the water and land pollution problem, they have the potential to be better for the environment. Batteries and cartomizers for e-cigarettes last longer; fewer are consumed per day than the number of packs and butts one might toss in a day. Especially with proper care, electronic cigarette batteries can last quite a while before needing to be replaced. It is very important to note that the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries common in e-cigarettes should be disposed of properly in order to ensure the lightest ecological impact, as this type of battery is recyclable.