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Tobacco Companies: Embracing The Green Movement To Improve Their Image

Tobacco companies are constantly trying to find ways to boost their public image. Is this possible? Several green initiatives by tobacco companies have been viewed as greenwashing. Governments accept these green initiatives and some still need improvement. Can the tobacco industry do more? 

Trying these image boosters could be worthwhile, with an estimated 1.3 billion tobacco product users. Green initiatives and tobacco-free products, including smoke-free and spit-free options, such as Zyn pouches and Lix pouches, might just offer unexpected positive outcomes.

Greenwashing and Tobacco Companies

The greenwashing movement is believed to have started in the 2000s and is said to be profiting from environmentally damaging practices. Greenwashing is used in controversial industries such as the tobacco industry. 

They present their environmentally destructive products as sustainable. But what about the millions of people who consume and buy the product? Does the tobacco industry deserve to keep its users happy? Some argue that the happiness from tobacco costs a life, but so does sugar.

Deforestation and heavy chemicals used in the crops combined with the large waste produced in manufacturing give a bad name. Still, these effects can also be identified in other forms of farming and manufacturing.

As much as the tobacco industry is being demonized, several other industries with questionable practices use the same concept of greenwashing. Read on to see what the tobacco industry has been doing for green initiatives. 

Problems Associated with Tobacco Growing and Curing

Here are a few problems associated with tobacco growing and curing: 


The land used to plant the tobacco must be cleared and trees and other plants must be removed. Most of the tobacco plantations are in food-insecure countries and then exported. Wood is also required in the curing of tobacco leaves. An estimated amount of 50 million trees are cut down annually for tobacco planting and processing. 


The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that deforestation has resulted in biodiversity loss in 13 countries across the globe. Tobacco farming leads to soil degradation. Farmers also clear land home to different animals and species by burning down the forest. This loss is irreversible.

Compromised Farmer Health

Farmers may experience health risks when using pesticides. Additionally, there’s a tobacco sickness called Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS). This occurs when nicotine is absorbed through your skin, especially when in contact when it’s wet. Symptoms include nausea, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, cramps and weakness.

Soil degradation

Tobacco cultivation has been associated with soil degradation and deforestation. The soil’s fertility is compromised through herbicides and pesticides, reducing its fertility.  


Large quantities of pesticides and fertilizers maintain a good crop yield. The use of these pesticides leads to contamination of the soil and water.

Green Initiatives by the Tobacco Industry

Tobacco companies use corporate social responsibility and the lack of international environmental regulations to show concern for the ecological problems caused by the growing and curing of tobacco. 

  • They fully fund any reforestation programs in developing countries that can’t afford to do it themselves. The industry is then said to build influence from this. 
  • They have taken time to establish sustainable conditions that meet the needs of the environmental problems caused by the planting and curing of tobacco. 
  • Sustainability groups recognize their initiatives as legitimate. 
  • Creating less smokey products to try and reduce the effects of passive smoking.
  • Creating awareness of the dangers of tobacco.

An Example of a Sustainable Program

Tobacco companies have set up several initiatives to create sustainable programs for the environment. Here’s an example:

The Sustainable Tobacco Program By British American Tobacco (BAT)

This program was initially called the Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) and ran for 15 years before changing it to the Sustainable Tobacco Program in 2016. This industry-wide program was developed to collaborate with other manufacturers to implement best practices. 

The program also uses international standards. It also set out to continuously improve its impact towards sustainability. 

Each year through this program, all tobacco producers complete a self-assessment and risk assessment review. Leaf operations and suppliers gather the criteria for farms through a monitoring process. 

The data for STP assessments is collected using the Farmer Sustainability Management digital monitoring tool. 

A Steering Committee, a combination of industry members, including BAT, governs STP. Current engagements with suppliers and stakeholders have been a changer to evolve and improve it. The program continues to seek improvements.

Featured Image: Pexels

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