The ideals of green living have slowly taken root in American society. Eco-mindedness no longer exists among a poorly publicized group of advocates labeled as radical thinkers. Environmental concerns have become so real that city planners are cooperating on multiple levels to create entire blocks with health codes written based on green ethics. The resulting sustainability standards make energy efficiency commonplace with every light bulb and appliance in a three-story apartment complex. These ideals happen to dovetail nicely with the separate but related national front to rid our culture of cigarette use. Where anti-smoking lease laws were simply relegated to the interior of a buyer’s room, new green coalitions are now able to enact fully smokeless zones on the grounds that the tobacco industry negatively impacts the environment.
The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design
LEED, one of the more important examples of the green movement’s prominence in our world today, functions as a certification program on which city planners can base their building codes. The program’s thorough quality assurance implements multiple levels of certification. The LEED platinum community certification typifies the program’s goals at the highest ranking. This rank means that planners achieved a score of 80 or higher (out of 100), committing to ecologically friendly materials, energy efficient technology and floor planning, and alternative transportation encouraging infrastructure among other points. Out of these criteria, a smokeless zone promotes further healthy lifestyles for the residents.
The most obvious and visible point of contention with smoking remains leftover cigarette butts. While reported as biodegradable, the material used for tobacco filters remain intact for at least 18 months under even ideal conditions. These filters and smoking related products inevitably end up in waterways and coastal waters, comprising 38% of debris found in US beaches and rivers according to a 2009 study from no-smoke.org. The pervasive practice of littering the ground with cigarette butts by smokers flies in the face of what environmental groups try to achieve with green health codes. As a result, a LEED platinum community provides legally regulated smokeless territories within a city.
Questioning the Ethics
More than the habits of its customers, the tobacco industry’s common practices oppose the ideals of ecological standards. The WHO claims that Big Tobacco leaves a notable negative impact on the environment with deforestation. The Tobacco Free Initiative sites that an “estimated 200,000 hectares of forests and woodlands are cut down each year because of tobacco farming.” South Africa composes a vast majority of that land which could be used for produce or other agricultural needs. The tobacco industry’s poor environmental report card just begins at deforestation. The WHO reports 2.3 billion kilograms of manufacturing waste and 209 million kilograms of chemical waste globally in the year 1995 alone (without factoring in the aforementioned littering). These numbers remain just as threatening today considering the state of the industry over the last 20 years.
Faced with these facts, the LEED platinum community standard cannot support the use of tobacco within its regions. The criteria set to achieve the highest ranking of sustainability involves the assessment of materials and practices which stand for ethical and healthy lifestyles, neither of which the tobacco industry exhibits.