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World Cancer Day: Avoid tobacco and lower your cancer risk

4 February is World Cancer Day. CANSA and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) encourage people worldwide to set and achieve personal goals, including improving their health through avoiding tobacco. These health goals enable people to lower their cancer risk and for cancer patients to optimise health, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the past two years, World Cancer Day supporters around the world have been sharing their ‘I Am and I Will’ commitments – pledging bold and brave actions to reduce the impact of cancer. People can visit https://www.worldcancerday.org/21DayChallenge and choose a challenge to receive a series of tips and guidance related to their challenge.  


Tobacco smoking is the main cause for unhealthy lungs, lung cancer, and over 20 other types of cancer. CANSA and the #protectournext organisations, including the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), urge everyone to consider quitting the use of tobacco in any form, to help lower cancer risk. 


Smoking is a major concern amongst the youth in South Africa. Youth are led to believe that hookah smoking or using hubbly bubbly is not harmful and that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, but hookah use has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking and the safety of e-cigarettes has not yet been scientifically shown. Testing has highlighted that e-cigarettes vary widely in the amount of nicotine and other chemicals they deliver, and this is not communicated to buyers. Nicotine exposure also negatively affects brain development in teens and young adults. Although e-cigarettes have been marketed as aids to help quit smoking, the evidence that they help is unsupported. In fact they may encourage more regular use of nicotine. They’re also more expensive than cigarettes, and smokers may return to cigarettes to save money.


The global health burden caused by tobacco smoking is responsible for over two thirds of lung cancer deaths and accounts for one in five cases of Tuberculosis (TB). Even if someone isn’t a smoker, second-hand smoke from people smoking around them can increase their risk for lung cancer. Tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke can also trigger inactive TB infections. Those with active TB may risk disability or even death by smoking. Smokers with HIV have three times the chance of getting TB compared to non-smokers with HIV. e-Cigarettes must be included when considering health risk, because the use of these products leads to the emission of fine / ultrafine inhalable liquid particles, nicotine and cancer-causing substances into the air.


Ten years after quitting smoking, personal cancer risk is half that of a smoker, and immediate health benefits may be experienced


We need to support our right to a smoke free environment and good health, encouraging smokers to quit. We can also support that government passes the new draft Bill on Tobacco Control (Control of Tobacco Products & Electronic Delivery Systems, 2018). The amendments include: 100% smoke free public places; standardised plain cigarette packaging with graphic health warnings; regulating electronic cigarettes as tobacco products; and the removal of cigarettes from view and from vending machines. 


Employers should also know and abide by the law and protect employees’ health by ensuring clean air and a smoke-free work environment. Efforts should also be made to educate employees about the health risks.


CANSA encourages smokers to #StartWhereYouAre and acknowledge that smoking is harmful to you and decide to quit and find support. View helpful tips from Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking Programme – a CANSA Smart Choice. Those wanting to quit can subscribe to CANSA’s eKick Butt programme that provides a series of handy tools to help you quit through a series of emails. For help and support you can also call the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) QUIT Line: 011 720 3145 or email: quit@iafrica.com



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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

Nirvana Kishoon 
Cart Agency
+27 (0) 82 823 3167


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