Smoking down due to government restrictions
Smoking rates in South Africa have declined following the years-long ban on cigarette advertising‚ high taxes on cigarettes and the banning of smoking indoors in public places.
The latest data from Stats SA released this month showed that 7% of women and 36% of men of a sample of 4‚210 smoked. These figures are lower when compared with the same study in 1998‚ which showed 11% of women and 42% of men smoked.
Many NGOs and anti-smoking bodies lauded the decrease in smoking in South Africa ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday.
Health department spokesman Popo Maja said that smoking use had declined from 24% of adults who smoked in 2000‚ to about 17% of all adults in SA currently.
"This is largely attributed to the government measures introduced since the dawn of democracy to control tobacco use." For example‚ taxes on a pack of cigarettes are 52% of their purchase price.
Many scientists warned that smoking hurt poor the most and left less money for vulnerable households to spend on food and education. The Human Sciences Research Council's Acting Head of Population Health‚ Priscilla Reddy‚ said that poorer people bore the brunt of economic harms of tobacco.
“Research also shows that the life of a smoker is cut short by 10 years on average‚ resulting in the premature loss of economically active citizens. In 2012‚ the total economic cost of smoking (health expenditures and productivity losses) equalled 1.8% of the world’s gross domestic product‚ with almost 40% incurred by low-income countries.
"Tobacco use poses a significant threat to the sustainable development of all countries as well as the health and socioeconomic well-being of populations.
According to the World Health Organisation‚ tobacco use globally remains the second leading cause of premature deaths‚ disease and disability after high blood pressure‚ causing over 6 million deaths each year.”
The National Council Against Smoking found that tobacco use worsens poverty: "In 2008‚ a quarter of SA households spent an average of R133 per month on tobacco. This is equal to 4% of the average monthly household budget‚" said Savera Kalideen from the council. Households that smoke also spend more on alcohol.
Despite decreases locally in smokers‚ a billion people worldwide smoke and will die of lung-related illnesses or heart attacks as smoking increases the risk of heart attacks ten times.
Vaping however is a much safer alternative than smoking. It delivers addictive nicotine without the cancer causing tobacco.
Vitality Institute Head Derek Yach‚ who headed the World Health Organisation tobacco control programme to reduce smoking worldwide‚ urged smokers to switch to vaping. E-cigarettes could be one of the biggest improvements in overall health or populations‚ he said.
"The evidence is rather clear that e-cigs reduce the risks of tobacco related death and disease substantially compared to combustible cigarettes. And with every few months’ passing‚ we see more evidence of this!
"The key issue to keep firmly in mind is the death and illness associated with smoking.. Smokers smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.
"Separate them and the death rates will drop even though they remain nicotine users. Given projections of 1 billion deaths from cigarettes this century globally —there must be few interventions with such a huge possible gain for health." Yach added: "This in no way implies that these products are zero risk. But does suggest we should do more to enhance their safety."