Cancer and Tobacco Control

SA’€™s tobacco legislation makes a difference

Although new research illustrates alarming trends in tobacco use in many parts of the world local experts believe that South Africa’€™s tobacco legislation has been effective.

The new research, published today [Friday 17 August] in the scientific journal, The Lancet, reveals that even after several years of global tobacco control efforts, nearly half of adult men in developing countries still use tobacco products; women increasingly starting to smoke at younger ages; and low quit rates in most countries. For the Lancet study, researchers compared data from the Global Adult Tobacco Surveys (GATS) done on 14 low and middle income countries mainly in South America and Asia, to data from the United Kingdom and the United States.

“The global picture is bleak because many governments are ‘€˜tobacco friendly’€™,’€ says Dr Yussuf Saloojee of the National Council Against Smoking. ‘€œBut South Africa stands in stark contrast to many other low- and middle-income countries. Since 1994, the government has adopted progressive tobacco control policies and have reaped the benefits.’€

The number of South African adults who smoke has fallen by a third in the past fifteen years, and currently about 22 percent of adults smoke ‘€“ 33 percent of men and 12 percent of women.

Professor Priscilla Reddy from the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) also believes that the finding in the Lancet study is not a reflection of the South African situation. ‘€œSouth Africa has had particular success over the past 18 years in its comprehensive health promotion strategies to combat the tobacco epidemic through legislation, public information and health education as well as raised excise tax duties,’€ says Reddy.

This has become apparent through the nationwide tobacco surveillance of the four Global Youth Tobacco Surveys (GYTS) the MRC has conducted from 1999 to 2011, which has catalogued the impact of the country’€™s tobacco legislation on the smoking behaviours of the nations’ adolescents.

‘€œGYTS shows that over 12 years the five million children aged 13 to 18 demonstrated consistent reductions in smoking behaviour at a time when adolescent smoking globally was increasing,’€ says Reddy.

She believes that smoking was made an unacceptable social behaviour because of the legislation banning cigarette advertising, restricting smoking in public places, placing written health warnings on cigarette packages raising excise duties on cigarettes and continuing to support the conduct of research on tobacco in SA.

‘€œInterestingly, girls in the GYTS have had a smaller reduction in smoking than boys; which mirrors global data that adolescent girls are taking up smoking at a faster rate than adolescent boys,’€ says Reddy. ‘€œIndeed GATS showed that though men have higher rates of smoking; women begin to smoke at an earlier age; and adolescent girls may be a particular target for the tobacco industry attempts to recruit lifelong smokers through nicotine addiction in adolescence.’€

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