Tobacco has long been our ‘friendliest enemy’. At one side, it provides the primary source of income to so many people starting from the farmers, cigarettes company workers, and even government employees in some countries.
That’s a fact: tobacco taxes have been one of the main sources of income in some developing countries such as Indonesia. Completely eliminating tobacco industry in those countries would not be a good idea for their development.
On the other hand, tobacco is a silent killer that takes thousands of lives every day. Let alone the fact that most tobacco is used for cigarette industry which is not an environmentally friendly industry from the beginning to the end of the process.
So, tobacco industry is making money from bad things. But some of the money they make is actually distributed to vital parts of some nations. Looking on its economic importance for some, can we at least make such amount of money from good things instead? Well, newest study revealed that we actually can.
Experts have long tried to find supporting facts about how smoking is bad for not only our health but also the earth. Some findings said that the effect is too small, it is negligible. Some others found that smoking is greatly harmful for the earth.
However, we cannot deny that tobacco is actually harmful. Even most smokers actually realize that their bad habit is killing them slowly but surely. But tobacco’s greatest charm, nicotine, makes quitting smoking is hard to do.
Because when people have already got addicted to smoking quitting is hard, the best way to prevent getting this habit is early prevention. However, preventing someone to start smoking is as not an easy job, because tobacco companies can somehow attract young people to do it with their interesting commercials.
Still, a trend is a trend. There will be an era when smoking is not something acceptable to the eyes of those people anymore. Such kind of signs have been discovered in United States, as smoking trend was declining by 2% in 2014 to 2015.
Today, only about 15 in 100 adult American is smoking. That’s a low number compared to early years, which means that somehow tobacco companies couldn’t draw the attention of new smokers. Experts predicted that the trend might continue and the figure will keep falling.
Tobacco companies will try their best to reverse the ‘negative’ trend with some innovations. However, the companies are not the only ones which is impacted by it. The impacts of such ‘negative’ trend is felt bigger by people at grassroots level, the farmers.
A slight decline in smoking trend means a lot to them, because it means that they can only sell their crops if they put lower price tags to the companies. Modern Farmer found out that the number of American tobacco farms indeed has declined over last two decades due to the fall of the trend.
Those farmers highly depend on their crops for living. We cannot heartlessly say that it is their own fault for planting tobacco because most of them inherited it from their families. So, what if we suggest them an alternative to planting tobacco that can give them more benefits?
Researchers at Michigan Technological University case studied this very case and found out that there is actually an alternative that we can suggest to tobacco farmers. The researchers said that it would be better off if the farmers give up planting tobacco for farming sunlight.
Whoa, farming sunlight? Yes, the researchers calculated nowadays trends in smoking industry and energy industry, and found out that harvesting energy from the sun by using solar panels is more beneficial to the farmers.
In their study Economic Impact of Substituting Solar Photovoltaic Electric Production for Tobacco Farming, Ram Krishnan and Joshua Pierce put detailed calculation to both sectors. Again, the biggest factor in determining which one is more beneficial is the trend.
While the trend of smoking is declining, the demand for clean energy is skyrocketing. In addition, while the price of raw tobacco is getting cheaper, so is prices for photovoltaic hardware. Yet, the price for electricity is increasing nowadays.
“We looked at likely trends in all of the major economic factors. But were surprised to find that because the cost of solar has dropped so dramatically it is already economically advantageous for tobacco farmers to replace tobacco with solar in many situations,” Joshua Pierce stated.
There is one determining factor in this case: while the demand for clean energy is increasing dramatically nowadays, there is not enough land to put the solar panels. Converting staple foods farmlands would not be a good idea, because on the other hand we have growing population.
This way, converting tobacco fields into solar energy farm would not cause us to lose valuable agricultural land. Instead, it is just converting existing farmland for better and more beneficial purpose. Something that a lot of tobacco farm owners have done by growing other crops because it is more beneficial.
Two Birds With One Stone
For the farmers, switching from tobacco farm to solar energy farm is a profitable scheme. But the benefits of this scheme is not only for the farmers. Many other people are likely will also feel the benefits of it.
We are talking about cutting off harmful pollutant and replace it with eco-friendly energy source. “The economic benefits for ex-tobacco farmers going into solar is nice. But the real payoff is in American lives saved from both pollution prevention and smoking cessation,” Pierce stated.
This is more or less is killing two birds with just one tiny stone. Let alone the health benefits that people can get from not smoking because there are less tobacco farmlands in the first place. Health benefits can even be the third bird.
The switch is said to be able to save at least half a million lives every year in United States alone, and it is a real calculation. Among those half a million people, 480,000 are smokers, 42,000 are secondhand smokers, and the other 2,000 are those whose lives are affected by coal-based electricity production.
Will this scheme become a real thing in the future? It depends on the spread of information.