YOU (South Africa)

The war on smoking lights up

New laws are clamping down on smoking – here’s what you need to know, plus advice on how to quit

- BY GABISILE NGCOBO

IT’S HARD to imagine but people were once able to light up wherever they pleased: in trains, buses and on planes, in the foyers of cinemas and even at their desks at work. Just more than 20 years ago adverts portrayed smokers as glamorous and gorgeous with lives to die for – but all that went up in a cloud of smoke when it became clear their cigarette addiction was quite literally killing them.

In the face of all the damning scientific evidence that’s emerged over the years authoritie­s have been compelled to clamp down on smoking. The direct result of this is that millions have chosen to stub out the habit.

According to Statistics South Africa only about 7% of women and 36% of men still smoke – and it’s thought this is largely due to the laws introduced since 1995.

Now with new legislatio­n the government aims to take it even further, making it completely illegal to smoke inside any building and practicall­y barring it from the outdoors too.

Smokers are enraged by what they see as infringeme­nts on their rights but the department of health is adamant: smoking kills.

Statistics show 50% of smokers die pre- maturely, roughly 14 years earlier as a result of smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease and emphysema.

And yet despite this, nearly eight million South Africans continue to smoke, lighting up 27 billion cigarettes a year.

But now even more stringent legislatio­n, which has just been cleared by the cabinet, is aiming to nip this in the bud.

THE NEW RULES

If the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems bill gets the green light the only places people will be able to smoke with a clear conscience will be in the privacy of their homes.

In terms of the proposed new rules smoking in indoor public places will be completely forbidden. Smoking areas at restaurant­s – whether indoor or outdoor – will also be a thing of the past.

It will still be possible to smoke outdoors but whereas before the law on this dictated smokers could light up 5m away from building entrances, this has now been increased to 10m. And puffing away anywhere in stadiums or on the beachfront will be illegal.

Smokers will still be able to smoke in their cars but only if they’re alone.

The draft legislatio­n is being gazetted for public comment and is due to go before parliament in August.

If it passes into law it will be South Africa’s most stringent tobacco reform in more than a decade.

NEW-LOOK CIGARETTE BOXES

In terms of the radical new bill cigarette boxes will no longer feature artwork that makes it look cool to smoke. Instead they’ll be adorned with pictures of cancerous lungs or graphic illustrati­ons of bodies at a mortuary.

Manufactur­ers won’t be able to emblazon their brand names on the boxes in bright type – instead all names will appear in a standard type face.

The new legislatio­n will also outlaw cigarette vending machines and will

regulate the use of e-cigarettes for the first time. E-CIGARETTES VS TRADITIONA­L CIGGIES The two smoking processes are different – convention­al smoking relies on the burning of tobacco while electronic cigarettes rely on a gentle heating process to deliver their nicotine. But while studies have shown e-cigarettes to be less harmful they still pose health risks and can lead to increased blood pressure, strokes and lung and heart disease. “You should think of cigarettes as being equivalent to jumping from the 10th floor of the building and e-cigarettes as equivalent to jumping from the fourth floor,” says Savera Kalideen, executive director of the National Council against Smoking. “I can’t tell you what the harm will be but you’ll be harmed without a doubt.” WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY Professor Corné van Walbeek of the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics says worldwide statistics show stricter legislatio­n results in a decline in the number of smokers.

He says the model for the rest of the world is Australia, which is on track to becoming the first country where less than 5% of the population smokes.

Van Walbeek predicts that although the local tobacco industry might kick up a “big fuss” the new legislatio­n will eventually pass into law.

“It might have to be amended a little bit to not open the government to lawsuits or constituti­onal issues and so on.” But how will it be policed? Usually these kinds of things get enforced by the public, Van Walbeek says.

“I go to a restaurant and if I see someone isn’t supposed to be smoking I just call the manager because I know what the law says.”

But not everyone is a fan of the new bill. “It’s controvers­ial, extreme and not urgent at all,” says Francois van der Merwe, chairperso­n of the Tobacco Institute of South Africa, which represents the interests of manufactur­ers of tobacco products and tobacco growers.

He believes people have a right to choose to smoke.

“They know it’s a harmful product but they still use the product. Adults make wrong choices every day.

“You can’t regulate to stop people buying cigarettes, sugary drinks or fast food. It’s ridiculous.” HOW TO BEAT THE HABIT So you’re ready to quit, but what’s the best approach – should you go cold turkey or is it better to start off by cutting down?

The National Council against Smoking advises people to quit completely.

“This is because what you’re actually trying to do is get rid of the nicotine you’ve been getting into your body through the cigarettes,” Kalideen says.

Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, head of clinical research at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute, warns that the more you smoke the more addicted you’ll be to nicotine and the more likely you’ll be to experience physical withdrawal symptoms.

These can range from headaches to stomach pain and dizziness but they usually taper off from around the fifth day.

For many the psychologi­cal symptoms pose far more of a challenge – they can include depression, anxiety, insomnia, agitation, irritabili­ty and restlessne­ss and can last for up to three months.

You might find that using nicotine patches or gum or speaking to you doctor for advice about other nicotine replacemen­t therapy could help you through this phase.

But Kalideen cautions that these nicotine alternativ­es can also be addictive. She says that when you come off them you’re going to experience withdrawal symptoms so by taking them you’re just delaying the inevitable.

If people don’t feel strong enough to give up purely through the strength of willpower they can try out other methods but she doesn’t advise it. S EXTRA SOURCES: IOL.CO.ZA, NEWS24.COM

Smokers will still be able to smoke in cars but only if they're alone

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? While e-cigarettes aren’t as bad for your health as ordinary cigarettes, they still pose a health risk and won’t be exempt from new regulation­s.
While e-cigarettes aren’t as bad for your health as ordinary cigarettes, they still pose a health risk and won’t be exempt from new regulation­s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa