Still unregulated, e-cigarette products are patently marketed to South African children and easily accessible. In shopping malls, colourful e-cigarette kiosks are in plain sight. Sleek designs and thousands of youth-friendly flavours increase product appeal and create a perception that these products are safe, fuelling youth e-cigarette uptake.
Advertising, use of attractive flavours, influencers and point-of-sale marketing that appeals to youth are well-known tactics that have been employed by tobacco companies to attract a young market and find “replacement” smokers to maintain their market share and profits – creating another generation addicted to nicotine. While restrictions on these marketing avenues have been imposed on tobacco products, the introduction of e-cigarettes or vape products threatens to undo this progress, says Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy of the National Council against Smoking (NCAS).
Placing children at the centre of conversations on better regulation of these novel products is critical for public health, argue the Protect our Next partners, a coalition of South Africa’s leading health organisations including NCAS.
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.
As we mark this annual milestone day, we hear from the National Department of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO), civil society organisations, medical and nursing associations on what is being done to turn the tide on tobacco harm in South Africa.
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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