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Tobacco Control Advocates focus on long term measures

You can now buy cigarettes. Choose not to.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has outlined measures to open South Africa’s economy and confirmed that the country will move to Level 4 lockdown. Among other relaxation of lockdown measures, this means that grocery stores and other retail outlets will now sell all items in their stores. This has resulted in the sale of a range of items previously listed as non-essential, including cigarettes. 

Public Health Policy and Development Consultant Zanele Mthembu says, “While we believe it was a greatly beneficial decision to exclude cigarettes from the list of essential items during Level 5 of the lockdown, we understood that this ban would be temporary. We are focused on the long term protection of society from tobacco harm through strengthening overall tobacco control measures and legislation, which have a proven positive impact on health worldwide. We are calling on government to pass South Africa’s Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, which has been in the pipeline for some time. Better tobacco control legislation would certainly be of great benefit in the time of a respiratory pandemic.  We urge government to take rapid action on this.”

Mthembu says the complete sales ban has had the support of public health organisations and many citizens at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the proven impact tobacco products have on respiratory and cardiovascular health; emerging studies showing that smoking can exacerbate the impact of COVID-19; the dangers of self-contamination through the very act of smoking as emphasised by the WHO and the increased risk of family exposure to second-hand smoke. 


“We hope that many people have chosen to quit during this period, particularly considering the dangers of second-hand smoke to their families in lockdown,” she continues. “We encourage more smokers to use this moment to stop smoking to improve their health, and to reduce the likelihood of a severe illness should they contract COVID-19.”


“Tobacco is a well-known risk factor for most non-communicable diseases and exacerbates infectious diseases such as tuberculosis,” says Professor Pamela Naidoo of the Heart & Stroke Foundation. “COVID-19 still has many unknowns, but emerging studies show that tobacco users are at higher risk of severe complications. For this reason, it’s vital to protect the health of our nation.”


“We applaud those that have chosen to stop smoking during the lockdown, we encourage you to continue with your quit programme,” says Lorraine Govender of CANSA. “By not smoking, you also benefit the country and our economy. You can use the money you save to buy essential items like food. You can also be part of reducing the burden on the public healthcare system through reducing the amount of tobacco-related diseases. Show your support to immune-compromised patients, including cancer patients, by ensuring a tobacco-free environment. Show your solidarity to the health professionals who are working tirelessly to treat patients affected by COVID-19, by taking responsibility for your own health and remaining nicotine free.”


Dr. Catherine Egbe, Specialist Scientist: Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council says, “Since smoking causes respiratory illnesses like COPD, Emphysema, Asthma and chronic bronchitis, and Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, we want to remind people of this relationship and why it is important that they consider quitting.”


Dr. Sharon Nyatsanza of NCAS says there is a need for more support at primary healthcare level to help those who smoke to stop smoking, including the availability of nicotine replacement therapy which should be on the essential medicines list. “Now more than ever, we need government to accelerate support to address the health harm that tobacco causes, including access to resources to help smokers stop smoking and the adoption of the Tobacco Control Bill that will provide better protection for people from both smoking and vaping.”


Mthembu concludes, “Even without a Coronavirus pandemic engulfing the globe, it is harmful to smoke.  As the President said, it’s now up to every individual.  Stay home, say no to tobacco and stay safe South Africa. Let’s protect our next.”




Call the National Council Against Smoking - Quitline at 011 720 3145 for tips to help you stop smoking, or visit: www.againstsmoking.co.za or WhatsApp on 0638282909

CANSA runs an online programme which also provides support and information for smokers who would like to stop smoking on http://www.ekickbutt.org.za/.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa has professional staff that can provide educational support during the challenging time you may face during trying to quit tobacco smoking. During the period of the lockdown, you may call 084 2507374 for assistance.



Website: www.protectournext.co.za


Available for interview:

Savera Kalideen, Executive Director of NCAS

Dr. Sharon Nyatsanza, Project &Communications Manager, NCAS

Dr Catherine Egbe, Specialist Scientist: Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council

Lorraine Govender, National Advocacy Co-Ordinator, CANSA

Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa


Media contact:

Tamaryn Brown

Connect Media for CART agency



+ 27 (0) 84 3510560

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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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