The South African government is not doing enough to stop tobacco industry interference with policy. This is revealed by the 2021 Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report (index) for South Africa launched today. The index is an annual review of how governments protect public health policies from tobacco industry influence. The index shows a decline in efforts to protect government policy and processes from tobacco industry influence. South Africa has deteriorated 6 points indicating increases in tobacco industry interference. The index also confirms calls for a tighter grip on tobacco company activities.
Tobacco control advocates and health organisations are reacting strongly to the damning report on BAT activities in Africa, British American Tobacco in South Africa: Any Means Necessary, published by global tobacco industry watchdog STOP. BAT activities are further exposed in an investigation by BBC Panorama: Dirty Secrets of the Cigarette Business. BAT, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, appears to have crossed the line of ethics and legality to keep people addicted to its products, stifling attempts to reduce tobacco use. According to the reports, BAT used potentially questionable payments to try to influence tobacco control policies and undermine competitors. The company allegedly paid varying amounts to politicians, journalists, competitors’ staff and more. Analysis of leaked industry documents and court affidavits suggests BAT was engaged in possibly illegal informant networks, state capture and the potential smuggling of its own products in Africa. As is to be expected, BAT has denied the charges.
Strong action is needed to help women and girls quit tobacco and prevent young people from ever starting
A new report details the tobacco industry’s long history of developing cigarette brands and predatory marketing campaigns that deliberately target women and girls and how that has led to devastating consequences for women’s health at every stage of their lives. The report documents the industry’s aggressive, century-long targeting of women and girls, utilizing themes of beauty, fashion, freedom and sophistication – and often playing into sexist tropes – while ignoring or downplaying the serious health risks of tobacco use. The report demonstrates that strong action is needed now to protect women’s health and save lives, and it offers proven solutions to prevent young girls from starting to smoke or vape and help all women quit using tobacco.
Smoking is dangerous for all sexes and ages, and can lead to disease, and even death. But, for women, smoking poses unique challenges. We have all heard the warnings about smoking, especially the increased risk of a number of cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, but we should also be aware of additional health risks for women, such as the impacts on female reproductive health and cervical cancer. Nicotine inhibits oestrogen, with multiple negative effects on women’s health. And while the serious increased health risks may not seem as tangible to young women who smoke – yellow teeth, foul breath, painful periods and early wrinkles could be.
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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
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