The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) recently conducted a national study among 25,532 people to track patterns of disease and death, as well as risk factors for both. As part of the study, about half of participants also underwent a physical examination, and about a quarter completed both a physical exam and submitted blood samples.
Researchers found that while only about 16 percent of the study reported being current smokers, elevated blood levels of cotinine – a chemical found in tobacco – were present in almost a third of all participants. High cotinine levels in non-smokers indicate dangerous exposure to tobacco smoke through occasional smoking, use of other tobacco products or second-hand smoke.
According to Deputy HSRC Executive Director Priscilla Reddy, second-hand smoke is responsible for ten percent of the six million tobacco-related deaths recorded worldwide each year. She added that children are especially vulnerable.
Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has proposed an amendment to the current Tobacco Control Act that will ban smoking in all public places,including outdoor restaurants and beaches. The public smoking ban is expected to come into effect before the end of this year. According to Reddy, this may address a current gap in legislation.
“There is a gap in the enforcement of the law that results in people being exposed to tobacco smoke in public places,” said Reddy, referring to that fact although the law limits smoking to designated areas, this is often not enough to prevent non-smokers from being exposed to second-hand smoke. “[The results of this study] strongly suggest that there is an urgent need to protect the public by a 100 percent ban on smoking in public places.”
The HSRC study also found that almost half of all current smokers had tried to quit and that an equal proportion reported warning labels on cigarettes made them think about quitting. Overall, the study found that the number of people who smoked had also fallen by about 50 percent since the study was first conducted in 1993. – Health-e News Service.