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The National Council Against Smoking praises Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) notes with deep regret the passing of Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in December 2009. Her state funeral bore testament to her full and successful life.

Dr. Msimang’s many achievements and awards are well documented, but her outstanding contribution to promoting health and reducing the diseases caused by tobacco, during her term in office as Minister of Health, warrants special acknowledgment.

Dr. Msimang recognised the importance, fairness and health benefits of regulating tobacco. With typical tenacity, she resisted pressure from
the tobacco industry to weaken the laws and she convinced both cabinet colleagues and Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health of the need
and urgency of action. The current tobacco laws are largely her legacy to the nation.

That the country’s sporting heroes are no longer walking billboards for the cigarette companies, that a person may go to work without having to suffocate in the stench of tobacco smoke, that diners may eat in a clean environment without being exposed to the dangers of tobacco smoke
pollution, or that children are no longer poisoned by smoke during a car trip to school, are all achievements of Dr. Msimang.

The Tobacco Products Control Act was passed in 1999 before Manto took office as MOH, but it was she who gave effect to the Act and was responsible for ensuring it worked. The regulations governing smoking in public places and prohibiting the advertising of tobacco products were passed by her.

During her terms in office she continued to build on her initial achievements and added to them. A smoke-free soccer world cup in 2010, and the introduction soon, of picture-based health warnings on tobacco packages, are also part of her legacy.

As a result, more smokers will quit, more children will never start smoking and thousands of lives will be saved.

Dr. Msimang was not content to merely pass legislation, but took the message of tobacco’s dangers to rural communities. In 2000, she began the practice of celebrating World No-Tobacco Day, each year, in a rural community in the different provinces. She personally visited communities from Malmesbury to Umjindi, and from Estcourt to Polokwane to Kimberley, interacting with school children and village elders. She was always communicative, kind and energetic. In her “Vuka – Move for Life” program Manto always included tobacco control and smoking cessation as an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. M’s contributions to international tobacco control are also widely acknowledged. South Africa was a leading player in the negotiations for
the World Health Organization’s ‘Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’ (FCTC). SA  represented sub-Saharan Africa on the bureau of the FCTC and the country’s leadership and experience were vital in uniting the AFRO region of WHO and crafting a strong evidence-based treaty, that protected children from beginning a lifelong addiction to a deadly drug.

In 2005 when Dr. Msimang went to Geneva to sign the Treaty on behalf of the South African government she took a group of young children with her. Significantly she signed the FCTC in their presence on 16th June – Youth day.

In 2000 the American Cancer Society recognised the important contribution of SA to global tobacco control by awarding its Luther Terry Award  to the Ministry of Health. An award Dr. Msimang accepted at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco Or Health in Chicago.

The NCAS is grateful for the important contribution Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang made to reducing, cancer, heart attacks, lung diseases
and complications of pregnancy caused by smoking and tobacco use in our communities.

Hamba Kahle Manto!

For more information call:
Dr Yussuf Saloojee or Peter Ucko
011-725 1514  or  082 454 9889

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