Reduce Tobacco Consumption, Save Lives

ngos diseases smoking taxes World No Tobacco Day
Saturday, 31 May, 2014 - 08:31

This World No Tobacco Day, South Africans are encouraged to quit smoking and are reminded that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally

Smoking, is one of those habits that many people struggle to quit, even though they know the serious health risks associated with it. The statistics are scary but even those do not seem to work. To put it into perspective, tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide, or one person every six seconds. Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease, more than doubles the risk of having a stroke and can lead to numerous forms of cancer, in addition to having many other negative effects on health. It also causes blood vessels to narrow, leading to raised blood pressure, and more chance of blood clots forming, all resulting in reduced blood flow to the heart and brain. So if the statistics cannot convince people to quit smoking, what will?
 
World No Tobacco Day is marked on 31 May globally to highlight health risks associated with tobacco use and to advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. This year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on countries to raise taxes on tobacco. Specific goals of the 2014 campaign are that: governments increase taxes on tobacco to levels that reduce tobacco consumption, and individuals and civil society organisations encourage their governments to do so.
 
Under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, countries should implement tax and price policies on tobacco products as a way to reduce tobacco consumption. Research shows that higher taxes are especially effective in reducing tobacco use among lower-income groups and in preventing young people from starting to smoke. “In South Africa, smoking among the youth is another challenge we are faced with,” says Dr VashMungal-Singh, chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa. “Shockingly, about one in five grade 8 to 11 learners smoke tobacco, three out of four are exposed to harmful second-hand smoke and seven percent start smoking under 10 years of age!”
 
The best way of reducing tobacco use among children is to increase the price of tobacco products through tax hikes. “Children are very sensitive to price increases and as cigarette prices go up, fewer and fewer children begin smoking,” says Dr YussufSaloojee of the National Council Against Smoking.
 
Research also shows that a tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption among adults by about four in high-income countries and by up to eight percent in most low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, increasing excise taxes on tobacco is considered to be the most cost-effective tobacco control measure. The World Health Report 2010 indicated that a 50 percent increase in tobacco excise taxes would generate a little more than R14 billion in additional funds in 22 low-income countries. If allocated to health, government health spending in these countries could increase by up to 50 percent.
 
South Africa has some catching up to do. Cigarette excise taxes in South Africa - at 52 percent of the retail price - are well below the levels recommended by WHO and the World Bank. WHO recommends that taxes should comprise 70 percent of the retail price of cigarettes, and the World Bank that it is between 66 – 80 percent of the retail price.
 
“Quitting smoking almost immediately improves your health so it’s never too late to quit,” says Dr Mungal-Singh. “In fact, within one year the risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker, after five years the risk of heart disease or stroke can fall almost identical to a non-smoker, within 10 years the risk of lung cancer will have halved compared to someone who still smokes.”
 
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa encourages all South Africans to avoid smoking or the use of other tobacco products, and to protect yourself and your family from exposure to second-hand smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke can suffer many of the same diseases as people who actively smoke. For support to quit smoking, call the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (0860 1 43278) to speak to a health consultant.
 
About The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
 
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer South Africans suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSF, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation and has NPO and section 21 status.
 
For more information contact:
 
Samukelisiwe Mabaso
PR and Communications Officer
Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
Tel: 021 447 6268
Email: sam@heartfoundation.co.za
Heart and Stroke Health Line: 0860 1 HEART (43278)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HeartStrokeSA
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SAHeartStroke
 
To read more about the Salt Watch, refer to www.heartfoundation.co.za/salt-watch.
 
For more about the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, refer to www.heartfoundation.co.za.

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