Un­nec­es­sary loss of lives

Cape Argus - - OPINION -

IT IS laudable that the world has marked World No Tobacco Day, putting the spot­light firmly on one of the most lethal habits and vices of our time – smok­ing. The oc­ca­sion high­lights health risks as­so­ci­ated with tobacco use and looks at ef­fec­tive poli­cies to re­duce tobacco con­sump­tion.

Smok­ing is still the pri­mary cause of pre­ventable ill­ness and death. While else­where the pen­du­lum is swing­ing in the right di­rec­tion, in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries smok­ing is preva­lent – nearly 80% of the world’s 1 bil­lion smok­ers live in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries.

Smok­ing ex­acts a heavy toll. Smok­ers un­der the age of 40 have a five times greater risk of a heart at­tack than non-smok­ers. Smok­ing causes about 80% of deaths from lung can­cer, around 80% of deaths from bron­chi­tis and em­phy­sema, and about 14% of deaths from heart dis­ease. More than a quar­ter of all can­cer deaths can be at­trib­uted to smok­ing. Smok­ing causes stroke, di­a­betes and chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease. On av­er­age, smok­ers die 10 years younger than non-smok­ers.

In South Africa, the preva­lence of smok­ing is 16.5%, with 44 000 smok­ing-re­lated deaths each year. That is equiv­a­lent to 121 avoid­able deaths each day.

Ac­cord­ing to a “Tobacco At­las” pre­sented by the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety (ACS) and Vi­tal Strate­gies to the 17th World Con­fer­ence on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town in March, more than 55 000 chil­dren (10-14 years old) and 6 321 000 adults (15+ years old) con­tinue to use tobacco each day in South Africa.

This is the state of af­fairs health au­thor­i­ties want to dra­mat­i­cally change should the Con­trol of Tobacco and Elec­tronic De­liv­ery Sys­tems Bill re­ceive par­lia­men­tary ap­proval. The bill, which has been opened for pub­lic de­bate, pro­poses to con­trol smok­ing through a to­tal ban on smok­ing in out­door pub­lic ar­eas, to reg­u­late the sale and ad­ver­tis­ing of tobacco prod­ucts and elec­tronic de­vices (e-cig­a­rettes) and to reg­u­late the pack­ag­ing of elec­tronic de­liv­ery sys­tems.

Puf­fers won’t be able to smoke in des­ig­nated in­door and out­door ar­eas, in­clud­ing smok­ing sec­tions in res­tau­rants, at work, on the beach, your car if you have a child or more than one per­son in­side, or any other place where chil­dren are be­ing taught or cared for.

This may be a bit­ter pill to swal­low for smok­ers and the tobacco in­dus­try – but then tobacco claims mil­lions of lives need­lessly.

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