More South Africans are kicking smoking in the butt
There has been a significant drop among adult smokers, but we still lag behind other countries thanks to stress
The rate of smoking among adults in SA has declined by more than 65% over the past 12 years, according to the recently released Foundation for a Smoke Free World report.
There are 7 million South Africans over the age of 15 who smoke, but the smoking rate has declined from 27.1% in 2000 to 18.2% in 2012.
The report, titled State of Smoking in South Africa, was released by the foundation, which works with researchers worldwide searching for information that could help smokers quit.
Commenting on the report, Professor Solomon Rataemane, head of psychiatry at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, said he believed South Africans smoked to alleviate stress. “Most people say they have anxiety, they cannot just do without cigarettes. So they find that when they smoke the nicotine helps them relax.”
“We have a very strong anti-tobacco campaign in this country, but moving people to quitting is hindered by people’s perceptions about what smoking does.
“If they [smokers] don’t deal with the intrinsic psychological difficulties, they will depend on smoking to keep calm or reduce their level of anxiety.”
A smoker quoted in the report said that despite her father and grandfather dying of lung cancer she has never tried to quit. “When I get cross at work then I smoke and I forget about even getting cross with my colleagues.
“I’ve heard of my friends that tried quitting. They went on programmes, six months later they’re back on the cigarettes again.”
Dr Kgosi Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, said the smoking rate drop was much lower compared with other countries. There had been bigger decreases in places like the UK and Japan.
The research was carried out in 13 countries selected for their diversity in a number of areas, including smoking population, tobacco control policies, and historical and current approaches to ending smoking.
The report said younger people were more keen to find alternatives to smoking.
“Tobacco use has steadily declined, although the illegal sale of cigarettes remains prevalent as a means to fulfill consumer demand for cheaper products ... An increasing number of consumers have expressed interest in safer alternatives to cigarettes,” the report stated.
“This trend has been most noticeable among millennial smokers [who look to vaping and other alternatives to quit smoking].”
The Cost of a Lunch Break survey, released last month by online job board CareerJunction, found that 28% of smokers quit when they managed to release their stress.
“If we as a medical profession are saying these are preventable deaths then we have a responsibility to assist the people that smoke. We have a responsibility in keeping the communities healthy, and for them to be as healthy as possible,” Letlape said.
The numbers in SA: Smokers make up 18.2% of the population, down from 27.1% in 2000;
Approximately 7 million people aged 15 and older currently smoke;
Approximately 27 billion cigarettes are smoked a year;
Illegal tobacco products account for an estimated 25% of the market;
66% of ex-smokers require multiple attempts at quitting before succeeding. What the law says:
According to the Smoke Free World report, The Tobacco Products Control Act of 1993 remains the principal tobacco control law in SA. The act bans most tobacco advertising, but there are exemptions: Tobacco products are allowed to be visible at point of sale, but customers are prohibited from handling tobacco products prior to sale;
Designated smoking areas in indoor workplaces, public places and public transport are allowed;
For workplaces and other specified public spaces, up to 25% of floor space may be set aside as a permitted smoking area;
Total taxes on cigarettes (including excise and sales taxes) make up 52% of the retail price.