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Smoking is very dangerous for anyone and can lead to preventable disease, and even death. However, while many are aware that smoking causes cardiovascular disease and cancer, many don’t know that smoking carries particular additional risks for women.  Smoking can have a negative impact on female reproductive health, as well cause cervical and breast cancer. Second-hand smoke is also a major risk for women. Nearly 1 in 6 people who die from exposure to smoking, are not smokers. Twice as many women die of exposure to second-hand smoke as men, according to The Tobacco Atlas. Infants exposed in-utero to tobacco smoke toxins, through maternal smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, frequently experience reduced lung growth and function. Young children exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk of the onset and exacerbation of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis, and frequent lower respiratory tract infections.

 

Women in government and civil society organisations have long led the fight to protect South Africans from the dangers of tobacco and tobacco-related products like e-cigarettes or vape products, leaving an important legacy.

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Many civil society organisations have welcomed the South African government’s decision to uphold the ban on tobacco sales, agreeing that tobacco use can worsen the progression of COVID-19. Banning tobacco sales will reduce tobacco consumption, thereby reducing the burden of severe cases of COVID-19 on the health system.

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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced on Wednesday evening that government will uphold the ban on tobacco products as South Africa moves into Level 4 lockdown, saying that smoking increased risk of COVID-19 and increased harmful disease outcomes in smokers who contracted the disease.

 

The announcement comes as the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), South African Medical Research Council (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa launch a campaign called “Protect our next” to encourage smokers to stop smoking and to increase awareness of and support for South Africa’s Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill.

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You can now buy cigarettes. Choose not to.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has outlined measures to open South Africa’s economy and confirmed that the country will move to Level 4 lockdown. Among other relaxation of lockdown measures, this means that grocery stores and other retail outlets will now sell all items in their stores. This has resulted in the sale of a range of items previously listed as non-essential, including cigarettes. 


Public Health Policy and Development Consultant Zanele Mthembu says, “While we believe it was a greatly beneficial decision to exclude cigarettes from the list of essential items during Level 5 of the lockdown, we understood that this ban would be temporary. We are focused on the long term protection of society from tobacco harm through strengthening overall tobacco control measures and legislation, which have a proven positive impact on health worldwide. We are calling on government to pass South Africa’s Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, which has been in the pipeline for some time. Better tobacco control legislation would certainly be of great benefit in the time of a respiratory pandemic.  We urge government to take rapid action on this.”

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Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that in South Africa (SA) alone, smoking results in more than half of lung cancer deaths, 37% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths, and over 20% of cardiovascular deaths and tuberculosis (TB) deaths. Smoking-related TB deaths are especially prevalent in South Africa, due to a higher vulnerability of HIV-positive individuals to TB.  Because it attacks the lungs, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke or vape.

The new Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill will make it easier for South Africans to choose smoke-free lives, regulate the danger of e-cigarettes and decrease the impact of second-hand smoke on the majority of the population, who are non-smokers. Why is taking time to implement? Tobacco industry profits are at the expense of addicted smokers, their families, and public health.  Together, the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa are steadfast in campaigning for the new Bill to be passed. It’s time for our people and our government to show leadership in implementing global best practice to curb the onslaught of big tobacco. 

Zanele Mthembu, Public Health Development and Policy Consultant

Savera Kalideen, Executive Director of the National Council Against Smoking 

Sharon Nyatsanza, Project and Communications Manager, National Council Against Smoking 

Lorraine Govender, National Advocacy Co-Ordinator, Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA)

Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa

Dr Catherine Egbe, Specialist Scientist: Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council

   
Tamaryn Brown
Connect Media for Cart Agency
+27 (0) 84 3510560
tamaryn@connectmedia.co.za
tamaryn@cart.agency

Nirvana Kishoon 
Cart Agency
+27 (0) 82 823 3167
nirvana@cart.agency

 

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Smoking and lung disease

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