Unnecessary loss of lives
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.