#WorldNoTobaccoDay – South Africans still smoke too much


Nearly 8 million South Africans light up 27 billion cigarettes every year, says Nuraan Cader and Richard van Zyl-Smit.

Smoking rates in South Africa have decreased from 33% to 21%, largely thanks to effective legislation and taxation. However, the decline in smoking has plateaued over the last decade, and South Africans still smoke too much – with nearly 8 million adults lighting up 27 billion cigarettes every year. Smoking prevalence remains the highest in the Western Cape, where 42% of men and 1 in 4 women still smoke.“Smoking increases your risk for heart attacks and stroke, lung cancer, pneumonia and emphysema – and also doubles your risk of tuberculosis. Nearly 50% of smokers will die early – 14 years earlier on average – from a smoking related disease,” says Prof Richard van Zyl-Smit of the UCT Lung Institute.
Smoking habits often start young and children of smokers are more likely to start smoking themselves. The latest South African Global Youth Tobacco Survey reports that 17% of grades 8 – 11 pupils smoke cigarettes regularly. A more recent study found similar figures among Western Cape University Students, with the use of water pipes, commonly known as a hubbly bubblies or hookahs, rapidly increasing.
“Perhaps the most worrying finding is that 66% of high school pupils don’t feel confident enough to ask someone not to smoke around them. This highlights just how vulnerable even a 17-year-old is to second-hand smoking,” says Dorothy Du Plooy, Cansa’s general manager, Southern Business Unit. Tragically, the damage inflicted by second-hand smoking starts about 18 years earlier.
The devastating effects of second-hand smoking on unborn and young children
“The consequences of second-hand smoking around infants and even unborn children are well known.
“Tobacco affects foetal development, increasing the risk of stillbirths, miscarriages, premature births, certain congenital malformations, poor foetal growth and sudden infant death syndrome,” says Prof Tony Westwood, head of paediatrics in the Western Cape Department of Health’s Somerset Hospital.