MEXICO CITY, May 31 (Xinhua) — The tobacco industry and tobacco consumption are exacerbating soil, air and water pollution, along with deforestation, according to one expert.

“The tobacco industry is one of the main causes of global deforestation, since it cuts down trees to create an area for tobacco plants, which need a lot of insecticides that end up destroying the soil,” Gabriela Jimenez, an expert at the Ecology Institute of Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said on World No Tobacco Day, which has been celebrated worldwide by the World Health Organization and its member states on May 31 every year since 1987. Given that the tobacco industry costs the globe 600 million trees every year, Jimenez said the impact is “a dramatic environmental loss because trees produce oxygen, purify the air and create fertile soil.”

One of the problems seriously affecting the environment is the disposal of millions of cigarette butts, generally thrown by smokers on the ground, said the expert. “When it rains, they (cigarette butts) are swept into sewers and contaminate water sources such as rivers, lakes and seas,” she said, adding that cigarette butts can take up to 10 years to decompose, as most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. To protect the environment, smokers “could do their part by picking up cigarette butts,” said Jimenez.