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.
Protect our Next advocacy organisations have launched a campaign calling for Big Tobacco to clean up its mess this World No Tobacco Day 31 May called ‘Susa Udoti Wakho - #yourbuttsstink’. The 2022 World Health Organisation (WHO) theme - “Tobacco: Threat to our environment” - focuses on the damaging impact tobacco has on the planet throughout its lifecycle, including deforestation, erosion, water pollution and biodiversity damage through to the disposal of manufacturing waste and littering of cigarette butts.
“We support the WHO message and our local campaign aims to raise awareness among the public on the polluting and damaging environmental impact of tobacco in South Africa – including cultivation, production, distribution and waste. It gives tobacco users yet another reason to quit,” says Dr. Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director of the National Council Against Smoking.
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) has joined South Africa’s public health organisations in calling for urgent regulation of e-cigarettes through the swift implementation of the long-awaited Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, saying the Bill could have an impact well beyond South Africa’s borders.
Leonce Sessou, Executive Secretary of ATCA, says “Global evidence reveals that e-cigs may create a new generation of young nicotine addicts and undermine progress in reducing tobacco use nicotine addiction. South Africa’s response to this new public health threat will serve as an example of how other African countries could regulate e-cigarettes. Protecting Africa’s youth from nicotine addiction and possible subsequent lifelong tobacco use will promote the health, society and economy of Africa.”
The National Council of Smoking (NCAS) welcomes the tax on e-cigarettes and lauds the Minister of Finance for stepping in to close the regulatory gap in this area that has existed for over 10 years. Children who start using e-cigarettes are at risk of addiction and are more likely to progress to smoking tobacco cigarettes. High taxes can prevent this, as raising the price can deter children from starting to use e-cigarettes. It also protects public health, as e-cigarettes are linked to serious health risks, including heart and lung diseases as well as a high risk of stroke. However, the paltry tax increase of R1.03 per pack of 20 cigarettes cannot be justified in either health or fiscal terms.
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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