As many as 20 per cent or about 50,000-60,000 people in Brunei Darussalam aged between 18 and 69 are smokers, with 36.3 per cent male and 3.7 per cent female.
This was said by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar to mark World No Tobacco Day 2022.
He added that the Ministry of Health (MoH) is “very grateful that Brunei Darussalam is not a country that produces tobacco products”.
The negative effects of tobacco use in general have been long known – harming users and those who are exposed to it, causing deaths to approximately eight million every year, and harming the environment.
In a statement, the minister said, “As such, the threat of tobacco to the environment is now a focus of the No Tobacco Day campaign this year with the theme aiming to raise awareness on the impact of the tobacco cycle has on the environment, starting from cultivation, production, distribution and the toxic waste generated after its use.
“The campaign also aims to expose the tricks of the tobacco industry in trying to tarnish their reputation and market their products as environmentally friendly.”
The minister hoped that smokers will be encouraged to quit after learning the tricks and intrigues of the tobacco industry.
He said, “Tobacco use threatens the environment at every level, starting from the planting of the tree to its use. Its cultivation contributes to deforestation, where an estimated 200,000 hectares of forest are destroyed each year, contributing to the increase in global warming.
“A tobacco plant will cause nutrients in the soil to deteriorate, and if this continues, it will damage the soil and cause the land to turn like a desert. Annually, about 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed and can no longer be used for tobacco cultivation.
“Desertification now can be seen in many countries including Brazil and India. Repairing land after tobacco cultivation requires high costs, and some countries need tens of millions to repair damaged land due to tobacco farming for a year.
“In addition, the cultivation of tobacco also requires a lot of water. During the cultivation, the amount of water required is equal to the amount of water needed for an individual throughout the year.
“According to the entire life cycle of a cigarette, one cigarette stick requires approximately 3.7 litres of water, including its production, its use and disposal. On average, a smoker can save 74 litres of water per day if they stop smoking.
“Cigarettes also pollute the air,” the minister said. “To produce a cigarette, coke, 14 of carbon dioxide will be released. The production of tobacco products contributes to nearly 84 million metric metres of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to the launch of 280,000 spacecraft rockets.”
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham added, “Cigarette smoke also contributes to a higher level of air pollution and contains three greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – contributing to global warming and climate change.”
The minister also shared that the life cycle of tobacco products ends with residues, with cigarette butts the most common thrash thrown on every surface. It is estimated that as many as 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are not disposed in the right way every year.
Studies from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that about 65 per cent of smokers throw away cigarette butts in the average place, releasing chemicals to the air, which could affect sea animals such as fish and turtles.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said that electronic cigarettes can also pollute the environment as batteries in the electronic cigarettes contain hazardous substances, such as lead and mercury.
“When discarded haphazardly, the chemical substances can permeate the cake into the soil and waterways or be swallowed by wildlife.”
Apart from threats to the environment from the life cycle of tobacco, smoking is also the main cause of fires in most countries, he said.
The minister said, “Cigarettes have been identified as the cause of most fire disasters, including forest fires, which cause deterioration in air quality, loss of property, objects, plants and animals.”
Meanwhile, the results obtained from the Global School Health Survey (GSHS) 2019 showed that 9.8 per cent of adolescents aged 13-17 are smokers and 4.3 per cent of male adolescents and 15.4 per cent of female adolescents. This, the minister said, indicates the high domestic demand for cigarettes.
“Every individual at every age in this country has the right to breathe clean air and free from any toxins. Hence, in conjunction with this year’s World No Tobacco Day celebration, let’s put up efforts to make Brunei Darussalam free from tobacco and cigarette smoke. I appeal to smokers to take this opportunity to quit smoking and make it as motivation and more sensitive in improving oneself in enhancing personal, family, community and national health,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said.