‘I smoke because my friends smoke,’ said a grade nine learner from Soweto. He confirmed that he bought cigarettes from spaza shops and hawkers on the street even though he is aware of its negative health effects.
According to the law, children under the age of 18 are barred from using tobacco products and it is illegal to sell it to them.
Peter Ucko, National Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) confirmed that they were aware of the fact that hawkers were selling tobacco products to minors, but that it was up to the health department to police it.
‘It is a tragedy that young people are exposed to an addictive negative substance which causes bad health, disease, disability and premature death. Police should take action against these people,’ said Ucko.
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world today (TUES) with a call for everyone to abstain from smoking and consuming tobacco products for 24 hours.
World Health Organisation statistics reveal that tobacco has caused 100-million deaths worldwide in the 20th century. South Africa’s Medical Research Council has found that tobacco causes 44 400 annual deaths in South Africa.
According to the NCAS, both the number of people smoking and the amount of cigarettes sold in South Africa have fallen since the Tobacco Products Control Act, 1993 came into effect in 1994. The number of adults (15 years and older) who smoke has fallen by 23% between 1995 and 2005. In 1995 over 30% of adults smoked cigarettes and by 2009 this had fallen to just over 23%. About 36% of men and 10% of women smoke cigarettes. The number of packs of cigarettes sold in South Africa fell by about 43% during the same period – from 1.718 billion packs in 1995 to 1.202 billion packs in 2009.