The National Council Against Smoking has come out in strong support of the Draft Tobacco Bill, not only for its tighter tobacco regulations that protect citizens from dangerous tobacco smoke, but also because it introduces regulation of electronic cigarettes.
The council hailed the Bill’s introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products, saying plain packaging, with gory health warnings, has shown to reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers in other countries.
The Bill has become a hot debate issue among big tobacco production giants out to protect their market and international anti-smoking advocates out to exterminate the harmful habit that it says was responsible for about 22% of cancer deaths globally.
Last month Japan Tobacco International (JTI) released the results of the study it had commissioned on plain packaging, which found that it was the proliferation of illicit cigarettes in SA that was a major headache. JTI conducted a similar study in the UK last year and the results were similar, but Savera Kalideen, executive director for the National Council Against Smoking, said plain packaging was the way to go as it removed the capacity of cigarette packaging to be visually appealing.
“Pain packaging introduced in other countries has shown to reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers; increase the effectiveness of health warnings, and prevent consumers from being misled about the harmful effects of tobacco use,” she said.
Kalideen said tobacco was the second leading cause of death and disability in the world, resulting in 6 million deaths a year, and that both smokers and nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke were at risk of developing chronic diseases, including various types of cancer.
She said globally, smoking was the cause of approximately 22% of cancer deaths and that, based on the most recent South African National Cancer registry data, three in five people die of lung cancer and it is now the second most common cancer in men and the sixth most common cancer among women.
Kalideen said cancer placed a significant burden on individuals, families, and ultimately society.
“Despite this growing burden, cancer treatment continues to receive a relatively low public health priority in South Africa. Overall, South Africa has 38 radiation oncologists working in public hospitals, compared to 147 in the private sector,” she said.
The South African Medical Association said the draft Bill aimed to protect nonsmokers by making enclosed public areas and certain public outdoor areas 100% smoke-free and prohibition of smoking in cars with children under 18 years.
Research has found that children are more vulnerable to the negative health effects of second-hand smoke and the risk of developing chronic diseases at a young age.