The direct morbidity and mortality caused by tobacco are well documented, but such products also contribute to a range of environmental pollutants resulting from tobacco product waste. No previous studies have yet quantified tobacco product waste in a low-income and middle-income country (LMIC). This study estimates the potential annual waste generated due to consumption of smoked and smokeless tobacco products in India and its states.
We systematically collected samples of smoked and smokeless tobacco products from 33 districts of 17 Indian states/union territories. Stratified weights of plastic, paper, foil and filter packaging components, and gross empty package weights were recorded. Prevalence of smoking and smokeless tobacco use at national and state-level estimates was derived from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2016–2017) to quantify waste potentially generated by tobacco products.
We included 222 brands of tobacco products (70 cigarette, 94 bidi and 58 smokeless tobacco brands) in the final analysis. A total of 170 331 (±29 332) tonnes of waste was estimated to be generated annually, out of which 43.2% was plastic, 3.6% was foil and 0.8% was filter. Two-thirds of the overall waste was contributed by smokeless products alone. Maximum waste was generated in Uttar Pradesh (20.9%; 35 723.7±6151.6 tonnes), Maharashtra (8.9%; 15 116.84±2603.12 tonnes) and West Bengal (8.6%; 14 636.32±2520.37 tonnes).
This study provides first of its kind national-level evidence on the types (plastic, paper, foil and filter) and quantity of waste potentially generated by use of tobacco products in India. Similar studies from other LMICs can serve to raise consciousness about many negative environmental impacts of tobacco products and need for policies to address them.