The WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2020 indicates that around 360 000 people fell ill with TB in South Africa in 2019. 62% of the 58,000 people who died, were HIV-positive. As tobacco use in people living with both TB and HIV increases the risk of death and worsens health outcomes, it is very concerning that over 30% of people living with these diseases use tobacco products, according to a study in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Journal. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 24% of HIV-related deaths are attributable to smoking. A comprehensive response to the TB and HIV epidemics must include a strategy to reduce tobacco consumption.
As we mark Human Rights Day in South Africa, we must consider how tobacco fundamentally violates our right to life, right to health, children’s rights, women’s rights, and our right to a healthy environment - and what should be done to protect these rights. As partner organisations in the Protect our Next initiative, including the National Council of Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSFSA), we have been calling for the passing of The Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that has been waiting to be passed since 2018. It’s time for our government to show leadership in the fight to protect our human rights.
Research on e-cigarettes conducted by prominent public health researchers has emphasised the need to speedily pass the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill (2018) into law. Two years have passed since the Bill closed for public comments in August 2018, during which time the e-cigarette industry, currently largely unregulated, has further taken hold in South Africa. Professor Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, director of the Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), says the research results support an urgent need for a regulated environment in order to better protect our youth from the health harms of e-cigarette addiction.
The National Council of Smoking (NCAS), together with #protectournext health organisation partners the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSFSA), have again called upon Minister Mboweni to impose a 100% tobacco tax increase, saying that there are compelling reasons to increase cigarette taxes from the current R17,40 to R34,80 (per pack of 20 cigarettes).
“In the face of the devastating health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, tobacco taxes are an under-utilised way to improve the health of the people and to reduce the pressure on the public purse,” says Dr Sharon Nyatsanza of NCAS. “Cigarettes are still far too affordable, and small negligible increases will not change smoking behaviours that add to the burden of tobacco on our society.”
Protect Our Next
Tweets by National Council Against Smoking
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
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