An anti-smoking activist says any progress SA has made in reducing tobacco use will be reversed if legislation is not updated quickly and the rise in vaping among young people continues.
Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director of the National Council Against Smoking, said that non-smokers, mainly young people, become addicted to nicotine by using e-cigarettes, which are not covered by tobacco laws.
“Smoking rates are stagnant. This is partly due to aggressive marketing by tobacco companies and tobacco control policies being outdated,” Nyatsanza said.
She was responding to the latest Tobacco Atlas released this week by Vital Strategies, a global organization for Public Health, and the University of Illinois Chicago.
The report states that smoking rates appear to be falling in wealthier countries but are rising in middle-income countries, including those in southern Africa.< /p>
The Atlas said with at least 1.1 billion smokers around the world and another 200 million users of other tobacco products, “tobacco remains a global epidemic”. to 15 in many countries. According to the Atlas, the tobacco industry is targeting poorer countries with weak regulatory frameworks, pushing novel products like flavored vapes into previously untapped markets.
In 2019, tobacco use caused more than 8.67 million deaths. Of these, 1.3 million were due to secondhand smoke, according to the Atlas.
Tobacco use among youth has increased in at least 63 of the 135 countries surveyed, and more than 50 million 13-15 year olds smoke cigarettes or use smokeless tobacco products .
Nyatsanza said SA is seeing an increase in smoking among young people due to the promotion of vaping. “The use of candy and fruity flavors like bubble gum and apple for e-cigarettes are problematic. It’s an important factor in adolescent acceptance and addiction,” she said.
“Flavours make e-cigarettes more attractive and palatable. The challenge for young people is that they become addicted to nicotine and are more likely to progress to using tobacco cigarettes.
“The Tobacco Atlas found that e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among young people. Controls need to be put in place in South Africa to avoid this,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) fourth global tobacco trends report, released in November, tobacco use in South Africa is expected to fall by 6% in in the next three years.
South Africa is among the top four countries with the last four countries failing to deal with tobacco industry interference and is lagging behind on tobacco control laws compared to those who will meet the 2025 targets.
Uganda and Kenya are expected to see smoking rates fall by 54% and 30% respectively by 2025, and both have enacted tougher tobacco control laws.
Nyatsanza said the state urgently needs to complete the Tobacco Product Control and Electronic Dispensing Systems Act, which mandates a 100 percent ban on smoking in public areas, d curbing addiction among young people. The bill aims to close loopholes in the law and bring e-cigarettes into the regulatory web.
“While SA was a leader in tobacco control, it is now lagging behind. Other countries now have 100% smoke-free indoor areas, illustrated health warnings and plain packaging,” she said.
“SA still has small text health warnings that allow designated smoking areas. Much more can be done to fill the gaps being used by the industry to expand its market and engage more people with nicotine.
“What we are seeing now is an aggressive one Marketing of e-cigarettes via traditional platforms and beyond social media. The Tobacco Control Bill will strengthen existing policies, regulate e-cigarettes and protect public health.”
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