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Friday, 29 September 2023 13:50

Tobacco control is crucial in reducing cardiovascular disease.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

In South Africa, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for almost one in six deaths, claiming more lives than that of all the various types of cancers combined. Every day, 225 South Africans die from heart disease and strokes.

Shaistah Bux, from a family of smokers who lost several members to cardiovascular disease (CVD), has been smoke-free for almost four years now. A smoker since the age of 9, Shaistah had become a 2-pack a day chain-smoker by 31. The death of her father from a heart attack when she was 16 was devastating, but when two of her uncles also had heart attacks, it marked a turning point. She immediately quit cold turkey to reduce her own risks. Now, she works with Protect our Next, a partnership of leading community and health organisations campaigning for better tobacco control regulation, a key element of reducing CVD.

"I feel so much better, although it is still very challenging to be in smoky social environments, to see people smoking and to be around friends who smoke," says Bux. "Having struggled with my own nicotine addiction and having seen how smoking can destroy families, I wish people wouldn't smoke in public spaces and that young people could be more aware of the harms and not be exposed to cigarettes as much."

Fortunately, progress is being made that may help Shaistah and others as the long-awaited Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill makes its way through parliamentary processes. Public Consultations are currently underway in various provinces. United in the Protect our Next campaign, South Africa’s leading health organisations are calling for swift passage to law for the Bill, to help reduce mounting CVD deaths in South Africa.

Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) emphasises the risks of smoking. "Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease and more than doubles the risk of having a stroke. The risk for heart disease is also 25% higher in female smokers than in male smokers," she says.

Naidoo explains that smoking is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. "On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers. Tobacco has a devastating effect on cardiovascular health, and links between heart disease and e-cigarettes are also emerging. To reduce South Africa's high incidence of cardiovascular disease, we must move to address the risk factors with effective tobacco control legislation."

The key changes proposed in the new Bill include introducing 100% smoke-free indoor areas, regulating e-cigarettes, requiring plain or standardised packaging and pictorial health warnings, banning advertising at tills, and eliminating cigarette vending machines.

"The Tobacco Control Bill will make it easier to quit and more difficult to smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vape products, hookah pipes and other related tobacco products," says Dr Sharon Nyatsanza of the National Council Against Smoking. "It's critical to protect people from second-hand smoke, and to curtail the tobacco industry’s ability to reach a new generation of smokers through misleading advertising. The root of this change is education, taxation and effective legislation, and we cannot afford to delay. We encourage people to participate in public consultations and support the new Bill. Together, we can work towards a healthier future for all South Africans."

Pledge your support for the Bill at