The true impact of smoking on your health, finances and the environment

Advertisement paid for by Change Incorporated (VICE)

Advertisement paid for by Change Incorporated (VICE) for its Quit Cigarettes initiative. Philip Morris International Management S.A. funds this initiative but has no editorial input, so may not share the views expressed

Stop smoking and you – and those around you – can look forward to a healthier life. And you’ll save a fortune.

But did you know you’ll also help the environment? In fact, you may be amazed to discover how much quitting protects the planet.

How quitting helps the environment

By giving up, you can make a positive impact on the environment: you’ll reduce littering, forest fires, harm to wildlife, and airborne pollution. Not only that, by not supporting intensive tobacco production, you’ll stop contributing to deforestation, soil and water depletion, and toxic waste.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item on Earth. A 2018 report by Imperial College, London, found that 6 trillion cigarettes are manufactured each year, of which about two-thirds are dropped onto pavements or in gutters where the butts make their way into our waterways, adversely affecting the water and harming wildlife. 

Cigarette butts take around 12 years to decompose, during which time they leach chemicals into ecosystems, contaminate waterways and damage wildlife. Smoking also start fires – according to a study by the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, smoking causes an estimated 10 per cent of global fire deaths. It’s not just cigarettes that continue to litter our planet; plastic disposable lighters take decades to break down in landfill.

How quitting helps you

Give up smoking and you’ll look and feel healthier, be more energetic, and have a lower chance of developing dementia. You’ll also feel significantly less anxious. ‘Studies show that when people stop smoking, they experience lower anxiety, depression and stress,’ says Dr Manuj Sharma, Specialty Registrar in Public Health for Southwark Council, London.

And it’s never too late – however old you are when you quit, you’ll dramatically reduce your chances of developing a smoking related illness, which will improve your health and boost longevity.

How quitting helps others

Around 80 per cent of smoke can’t be seen or smelled, and it lingers, so smoke-free homes and cars mean healthier, happier children and pets. Your kids will likely get fewer middle ear infections and respiratory problems, such as asthma, and your pets will be less likely to get cancer.

How quitting helps your finances

You can save an average of £300 a month or £3,650 a year by quitting a 20-a-day habit. Over 10 years that’s £36,500, close to the nationwide average deposit on a first home!

Tips on giving up

Giving up is hard but don’t be afraid to seek help. ‘Research has proven you are four times more likely to quit when you seek the support of professional NHS Stop Smoking Services than trying alone,’ says Dr Sharma.

Instead of substituting smoking with nicotine replacements, try behavioural therapy or medication, team up with fellow wannabe quitters for support, maintain a positive attitude, and apply strategies for tackling temptation such as ‘planning ahead for times where it might be difficult, like parties, and spending more time with non-smokers,’ adds Dr Sharma.

Exercise and certain foods cut cravings. ‘Meat, fizzy drinks and alcohol can make cigarettes taste better, while fruit and veg, cheese and juices have been shown to do the opposite,’ explains Dr Sharma, so follow a healthy diet. Be mindful of triggers such as stress, tiredness or drinking, and control cravings by distracting yourself.

Write a list to remind yourself what you’ll gain by quitting: your stamina, skin, teeth and breath improve; your senses of taste and smell return; energy levels increase; and your kids, pets and the planet are much better off.

Getting help

Most GPs, pharmacies and health clinics can help. Alternatively, visit NHS Smokefree, its Stop Smoking service or call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044.

Advertisement paid for by Change Incorporated (VICE) for its Quit Cigarettes initiative. Philip Morris International Management S.A. funds this initiative but has no editorial input, so may not share the views expressed.