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Smoking or Vaping: Which is Better for the Environment?

Smoking or Vaping: Which is Better for the Environment?

A lot of ink has been poured into the smoking versus vaping debate, and rightly so. Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world, which is nothing short of astounding really, especially bearing in mind that smoking is a personal choice.

This is not intended to come across as haughty or anything like that, but it’s a pretty big deal when you think about it; even to a former smoker like yours truly.

But it’s worth acknowledging the fact that many of us pick up the habit as a harmless pastime, and it’s not until we gradually get sucked into it that we realise it’s incredibly hard to drop. The reason? Nicotine – one of the most addictive substances available to man.

Luckily, the emergence of vaping and advancements in the industry has and continues to change the landscape for the better. The rise in the number of vapers has corresponded with a decline in smoking rates worldwide, lending credence to reports by bodies like Public Health England that vaping is the most effective smoking cessation tool, bar none.

It is thus inevitable that comparisons between the two will always be there, and while most topics have centred around the health effects of vaping vs. smoking, their environmental impact hasn’t been given too much spotlight.

The Big Question is, which between vaping and smoking is better for the environment?


Cigarettes have always posed a global waste problem.

Most people are not aware that cigarette butts are non-biodegradable, unlike litter from say, fast-food containers made of cardboard or paper. It takes approximately 10 years for cigarette filters to break down, and considering the average smoker will discard in the region of 430,700 filters assuming they smoke throughout their lifetime, that’s a lot of litter to deal with.

That’s not to mean vape products are safe for the environment by comparison. Vaping does create plenty of waste too, especially disposable e-cig devices. The good thing about vaping is that there are measures that can minimise the impact that vape products have on the environment, even at an individual level, although that does call for conscious effort.

For instance, you can opt for the longer-lasting refillable devices such as vape pens, sub-ohms and even rechargeable pod systems (also refillable).

As well, while e-cigs do come with a slew of replaceable accessories such as coils and e-liquid bottles, most of these products are recyclable (batteries included), which is hard to achieve with traditional cigarettes. Even e-liquids have prescribed ways through which you can dispose of them safely without posing a danger to the environment.

Chemicals that pollute the earth

Chemicals that pollute the earth

Cigarette emissions are a danger to both humans and the environment due to the hundreds of chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. Additionally, the growth, curing and transportation of tobacco involves many chemicals and other toxic materials.

The massive industrial processing of cigarettes also results in a lot of air pollution in the atmosphere, and the emission of noxious gases such as methane and carbon dioxide from second-hand smoke doesn’t help matters.

Cigarette butts take long to break down, and when they eventually do, they dissolve into a synthetic substance liquid known as plasticine which is a known environmental hazard. Cigarette butts pollute waterways and to add to the problem, studies have shown that they leach chemicals into aquatic ecosystems, posing a risk to the inhabiting flora and fauna.

Analysis of soil littered with cigarette ends has been found to contain hydrocarbons (which are carcinogenic), in addition to dozens of other chemicals.


The tobacco industry has immensely contributed to deforestation problems, and just to give you an idea of the magnitude, for every 15 cigarette packs, one tree is cut down. According to statistics on the subject, the average smoker contributes to the chopping down of six trees. Assuming they fail to drop the habit, that’s 352 trees over the course of their lifetime.

Vaping therefore wins hands-down and looking at it from this aspect, it’s fair to say the more vapers, the better for the environment.

CO2 emissions

CO2 emissions

We know, some claims such as the banning of cattle rearing to reduce CO2 emissions may be a bit over the top, but at a time when everything is gauged in terms of carbon emissions, we cannot overlook the 22 million tons of CO2 the tobacco industry releases into the atmosphere annually.

With a reported 5.5 trillion cigarettes produced every year globally, this equates to 0.3066 tons of CO2 per cigarette.

That’s not to say the vaping industry does not produce its fair share of greenhouse emissions. It does, although it can be argued that a lot of these emissions are production-related. Vapour from e-cig products does not emit harmful gases like carbon dioxide and methane, so the general atmospheric pollution from vape products pales in comparison to regular cigarettes.

Final Word

Looking at the effects of vaping and smoking on the environment, neither industry brings any benefits. However, it’s clear that the vaping industry is the lesser of the two evils by a country mile.

As a vaper, your impact on the environment is less significant than it would be if you were a smoker. However, you may need to take deliberate steps to minimise your eco-footprint even more.

That means opting for refillable and rechargeable devices over single-use devices and disposable vapes. It means recycling your batteries and practising safe disposal of vape bottles and old accessories. And it means getting rid of e-liquids you won’t be using in a responsible manner.

It also means purchasing your e-liquid supplies in bulk, whether that be through flash sales or in the form of short-fill bottles, which are larger so you will need less of. And it means buying from local brands, which plays a part in reducing carbon emissions what with the reduced air shipping.

By taking these measures at an individual level, you can revel in the knowledge that you’re doing your small bit to make our world a more sustainable place.

Also Read: 5 Possible Reasons for Your Website’s Sudden Drop in Rankings

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