Tobacco smoke is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide, or one person every six seconds. If you smoke, there’s a very good chance it will kill you. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco related disease.
A recent survey from the Medical Research Council of South Africa showed the shocking levels of young people starting to smoke, with nearly half of Western Cape learners in grades 8 to 10 currently smoking, whilst the National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey from 2008 showed that one fifth of high school learners are smokers.
The survey discovered that young people are most susceptible to promotion by tobacco companies, who target young people as possible long term customers. The latest South African Demographic and Health Survey showed that amongst adults, about 35% of men and 10% of women are smokers.
Tobacco smoke is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide, or one person every six seconds.
South Africa’s tobacco legislation has come a long way, but there is still much more to be done to protect the health of many people through stricter legislation.
Despite the fact that tobacco advertising bans have been shown to be highly effective and good value for money in protecting people from tobacco, only 6% of the world’s population currently benefits from this full protection from tobacco industry advertising, promotion and sponsorship tactics.
Evidence shows that comprehensive advertising bans lead to reductions in the numbers of people starting and continuing to smoke. They counteract the ineffectiveness of partial bans, prevent young people being exposed to tobacco marketing and protect people from misleading and deceptive tobacco marketing campaigns.
According to the World Health Organisation, the tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Unless people start doing something about it, the epidemic will kill more than eight million people every year by 2030. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low and middle-income countries.
In South Africa, the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has proposed a legislation which would lead to further restrictions of smoking in taverns, restaurants, public places, outside buildings and in some outdoor public areas.
If the regulation is passed later in the year, as expected, it will represent a victory for those who have a right to clean air. Another proposed regulation under discussion includes the display of graphic health warnings on tobacco products, depicting the negative effects that smoking has on health.
Promoting Healthy Lifestyles
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa is joining with the Department of Health to bring together health promoters, nurses, environmental health officers and others involved in health promotion around tobacco. They share research into tobacco, tobacco control legislation and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, to raise awareness and empower health workers to take this knowledge out into their communities and workplaces.
This is part of a larger initiative driven by the Western Cape Tobacco Control Task Team, of which the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa is a member, working in partnership with the National and Western Cape Department of Health. The group also partners with CANSA, the TB/HIV Care Association, and the National Council Against Smoking.
Health Risk of Smoke
Non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke can suffer many of the same diseases as people who actively smoke.
For support to quit smoking, call the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (0860 1 43278) to speak to a health consultant.