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Are Cities the New Cigarettes?

Words by 3p Contributor
New Activism
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By Jona Jone

We are living in a crucial time in Earth’s history — a time in which over half of the world’s population is now living in cities. This number is continuously rising, and with it comes the rise of pollution. Reports indicate that half of the world’s biggest cities are severely polluted, and the forthcoming setting for each of these places is looking grim.

Pollution comes in many forms, all of which capable of causing serious damages to our health. However, there is one form of pollution that harms us the most, simply because it is in the air we breathe. Humans are constantly breathing, and it is only logical that the more polluted the air we breathe, the more damage it causes our lungs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for more than 6 million deaths per year. In fact, air pollution is even causing more deaths than AIDS and malaria combined.

A study released by the United Nations in 2011 examined outdoor air pollution in almost 1,600 cities in 91 countries. The study, which used fine particulate matter as a measure of the severity of air pollution, notes that half of the world’s urban population are living in cities that have 2.5 times more of the recommended levels of fine particulate matter indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines.

It is said that the current cities of the world are slowly killing us. Recent studies reveal exactly why.

The current cities, the future cigarettes


Smoking, the ultimate precursor of lung-related diseases around the world, is an old habit most people find very difficult to quit. They are paying the price for this dangerous vice, and it is for them to deal with — or so you think. These days, even a non-smoker is unknowingly smoking several cigarettes a week. How is this possible?

Experts have done the math: A day in some of the world’s most polluted cities is tantamount to smoking various amounts of cigarettes, depending on how much particulate matter is present.

Take, for example, the city of Beijing. It has been computed that, on an average day in this city, an average adult inhales a total of 1.8 milligrams of PM2.5 particles from air pollution, which is a sixth of that found in an average cigarette. This means that the mere act of walking around this city is forcing you to smoke. The most pressing concern here is that this severity of air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of lung and bladder cancers. In fact, it is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. This further justifies the claim that air pollution is continuously increasing death rates around the world.

This applies to numerous cities across various countries. A 2014 study conducted by the WHO even lists the 10 most air-polluted cities in the world, most of which are in India and Pakistan. Your city may not be on this list, but it is better to not be complacent. There are still multiple ways in which you can prevent converting your city into a giant cigarette.

Green living: The world’s most powerful cigarette filter

The sudden rise in urbanity has indeed caused a spike in air pollution levels around the world. It is a good thing though, that we are seeing substantial effort to combat and prevent air pollution. Green living, green architectural designs, and numerous other green innovations are setting the standard for future city trends. With energy-efficient home designs becoming one of the most proactive efforts, even condos buildings in key cities are now geared towards sustainability.

Calling the world’s cities “the new cigarettes” may be a loaded claim, but it really is not. The air we breathe has been polluted with a mixture of toxins and cancer-causing substances—which are the main ingredients of actual cigarettes. But hope is seen in many urban cities around the globe—and as mentioned earlier, people are gearing to more sustainable ways of living, and it is evident in the way they choose to build their homes.

Since construction holds the largest single share in the consumption of our global resources, it is also one of the main contributors to air pollution. This being said, it is only logical that to start rehabilitating our cities, we look at the very core of urbanity—which is the industrialized city setting. Charging the urban scene with green innovations may be just the filter we need for all these growing “cigarette cities.”

Image credits: 1) Flickr/Safia Osman 2) Flickr/hazara

Jona Jone has been a mortgage originator in Philadelphia, PA. She is also a Business and Property Specialist. She has been writing articles about real estate investment, business, parenting and living.

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