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WHO report shows stronger tobacco control reaps rewards in Africa: SA lags

Comments from Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director, National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) 

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) welcomes the fourth WHO global tobacco trends report published on Tuesday, which shows that smoking rates are falling globally. In the past 20 years global smoking rates have dropped from 32% to 22%. This is good news for public health, and it is a confirmation that strong tobacco control policies are effective. It also commendable that the African Region has the highest proportion of countries on track for a 30% reduction in smoking rates by 2025 (53% of countries). But, the report also makes it clear that the gains are not equal, but are closely linked to progress and efforts made by individual countries to end the tobacco epidemic. South Africa is not among the 25 Afro region countries on track to meet the reduction target of 30% by 2025.

 If South Africa continues with business as usual, in particular the slow rate of implementation of strong tobacco control policies, the WHO estimates that South Africa will see a small decrease of 6% in smoking rates. This is significantly lower than other African countries like Uganda and Kenya, which will see a 54% and 30% drop in smoking rates respectively. Both of these countries have put in place stronger tobacco control laws. For instance, they have 100% smoke-free public places, which better protects non-smokers from harmful second-hand smoke. Kenya and Uganda also require graphic health warnings on tobacco products, which have been proven to be more effective in preventing children from starting to smoke and in encouraging smokers to quit.

South Africa, as one of the 182 members of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), acknowledges that the solution to the tobacco problem lies in implementing strong tobacco control policies as recommended under the FCTC. So we know the solutions, the challenge lies in implementing these solutions with speed. Over three years have passed since the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill (Tobacco Control Bill) was published, and it still has not been passed as law. Every day of delay results in more premature deaths and disability from tobacco. 

Reducing tobacco use is not only a health priority, but also an economic, sustainable development, and human rights issue. High smoking rates threaten sustainable development, exacerbate poverty and burden the health system. To see a significant fall in smoking rates and to truly end the damage caused by tobacco use, South Africa needs to accelerate its tobacco control efforts, the first being to pass the Tobacco Control Bill into law.


Health organisations forming part of the #protectournext partnership include the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) and the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF). Together, these organisations are steadfast in driving awareness of the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes, while campaigning for the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill to be passed. 

Media Contact:
Tamaryn Brown
Tamaryn@connectmedia.co.za / Tamaryn@cart.agency
084 3510560

For further information, contact

Dr Sharon Nyatsanza (Ph.D.)

Deputy Director – National Council Against Smoking

Contact: 079 666 1356 / 011 725 1514


The National Council Against Smoking is a leading not-for-profit organisation working to promote public health by encouraging a tobacco-free society.

Press kit with photos: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1gm16476cjq31ts/AAArW8vViqkhTtXbLxe_1pqqa?dl=0


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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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