SA 'taking baby steps' in reducing smoking — WHO report
SA is one of the countries that is steadily reducing its smoking rates thanks to its anti-tobacco policies, but other low-income African countries such as Uganda and Kenya are doing even better.
This is according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to the fourth WHO global tobacco trends report, smoking rates in the past 20 years have been falling, dropping from 1.32-billion in 2015. The number is expected to drop to 1.27-billion in 2025.
The report says at least 60 countries are now on track to achieving the voluntary global target of a 30% reduction in tobacco use between 2010 and 2025. Two years ago only 32 countries were on track.
While North and South America have seen the steepest decline in smoking prevalence rates over time, dropping from 21% in 2010 to 16% in 2020, the report also shows that Africa had the lowest average rate of tobacco use in 2020 at 10%, down from 15% in 2010.
Of the 60 countries in the world that will meet the 30% target, 25 are in Africa. They include Kenya and Uganda.
But the report shows that the SA is lagging behind and tobacco use is only expected to drop by 6% in 2025. The country is also among the bottom four countries that are failing to deal with tobacco industry interference, and is lagging in tobacco control laws compared to those that will meet the 2025 targets.
The National Council Against Smoking has welcomed the news that smoking rates are falling. “This is good news for public health, and it is a confirmation that strong tobacco control policies are effective. It also commendable that the African region has the highest proportion of countries on track for a 30% reduction in smoking rates by 2025,” said the council's deputy director, Dr Sharon Nyatsanza.
Nyatsanza said the report made it clear that while Africa had the lowest smoking trends, “the gains are not equal, and are closely linked to progress and efforts made by individual countries to end the tobacco epidemic”.
She said countries such as Uganda and Kenya, which will see a 54% and 30% drop in smoking rates respectively, both had put in place stronger tobacco control laws.
“For instance, they have 100% smoke-free public places, which better protects non-smokers from harmful second-hand smoke. Kenya and Uganda also require graphic health warnings on tobacco products, which have been proven to be more effective in preventing children from starting to smoke and in encouraging smokers to quit.”
SA, as one of the 182 members of the framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC), acknowledges that the solution to the tobacco problem lies in implementing strong tobacco control policies.
“So we know the solutions, the challenge lies in implementing these solutions with speed. More than three years have passed since the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill was published (in May 2018), and it still has not been passed as law. Every day of delay results in more premature deaths and disability from tobacco. Reducing tobacco use is not only a health priority, but also an economic, sustainable development and human rights issue.
“High smoking rates threaten sustainable development, exacerbate poverty and burden the health system. To see a significant fall in smoking rates and to truly end the damage caused by tobacco use, SA needs to accelerate its tobacco control efforts, the first being to pass the Tobacco Control Bill into law,” Nyatsanza said.