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Don’t let your health go up in smoke

Written by Dale Hes

In recent years government has focused on creating laws that seek to reduce the damage caused by harmful substances such as tobacco.

Tobacco, whether through direct smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke, poses a significant health risk to all South Africans.

“It’s not just the smoker who has increased risk of disease but also people exposed to second-hand smoke,” Cancer Association of South Africa health speacialist Professor Michael Herbs explains.

The youth are often the ones who are most affected by being exposed to smoking from an early age and being especially vulnerable to addiction.

With the economic cost of smoking in South Africa amounting to R59.1 billion it has become clear that tobacco control should be a priority. The amount includes direct costs related to healthcare expenditures and indirect costs related to lost productivity due to early mortality and morbidity.

In April, Cabinet approved the Department of Health’s proposed Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill. The proposed bill which is open for public comment until 9 August 2018 suggests a complete ban on smoking in outdoor public places as well as a ban on cigarette vending machines. It also seeks to implement a total ban on smoking in indoor public places such as restaurants and certain outdoor public places such as fields.

The bill aims to promote public health and align the South African tobacco control legislation with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

It also advocates for plain packaging of tobacco products which includes pictorials and health warnings to make tobacco products less attractive.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said that South Africa is still behind other countries in terms of anti-smoking laws.

“The new laws are not strict. At the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town in March many speakers complained that South Africa lags behind in anti-smoking legislation,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

The bill will apply to electronic cigarettes which have also been found to be harmful to health.

“When tobacco legislation was enacted e-cigarettes were not yet there. The manufacturers of e-cigarettes state that anything that appears in the legislation does not apply to them. The argument of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is that e-cigarettes must be classified as cigarettes,” the Minister said.

Did you know?

On average the life expectancy of a smoker is 10 years less than a non-smoker.