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The True Cost of Tobacco

Afrikaanse Persvrystelling

The theme for World No Tobacco Day for 2023 is “We Need Food Not Tobacco”. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) wholeheartedly supports the World Health Organisation (WHO) campaign to create awareness around the negative consequences of tobacco farming and use of tobacco. Government and policy makers are encouraged to motivate the advantages of substitution of tobacco with nutritious and sustainable alternative crops, making resources available to local tobacco farmers who wish to switch crops (10).

Lorraine Govender, CANSA National Manager: Health Promotion explains, “The true cost of tobacco is devastating. The damage extends to the environment, affecting agriculture and food security; (1) personal health (the known cause of 17 smoking related illnesses and non-communicable diseases and 14 types of cancer – of these colorectal, lung and cervical, feature in the top 5 cancers affecting SA citizens); (2) (3), and economy.  Tobacco related illnesses cost the SA economy approximately R42 million per year due to loss of productivity, associated healthcare costs and premature deaths”. (4)

CANSA challenges individuals to consider whether the cost to their wallet, the economy, their personal health or the health of loved ones through second hand smoking, (5) is worth the use of tobacco products and encourages smokers to quit. According to Stats SA (2017), 6.8-million people in South Africa are hungry and food insecure. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2022 (9), found that South African smokers spend average of R263 on cigarettes each month.


Dr Catherine Egbe, Specialist Scientist for the South African Medical Research Council’s Alcohol and other Drug Research Unit, adds, “A sick nation is a poor nation. Our communities want freedom from tobacco and the damage it causes to our health, our environment, and the economy.” (6)

Govender continues, “Tobacco farmworkers face risks from pesticides and other chemicals as hand harvesting remains the preferred method of collection and leaves picked mechanically are of a lower quality (7). Tobacco also harms the environment by causing deforestation (forests are cut down to make room for tobacco production and to make fuel for curing tobacco leaves). Deforestation threatens plant and animal biodiversity and is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions and climate change. (1) (8). Tobacco farming also causes the leaching of soil nutrients and spilling of toxic pesticides and fertilisers into soil and water systems, resulting in the waste of valuable natural resources.” (1) (8)

“The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill to be passed by Parliament, will make it easier for South Africans to choose smoke-free lives and put an end to the threat tobacco-use poses to the environment. The new bill will soon be presented to Parliament to be passed to amend the existing Tobacco Control Law focussing on 100% smoke-free indoor areas; plain packaging and pictorial health warnings; banning adverts at tills in retail outlets and the sale of tobacco and related products in vending machines; and regulation of e-cigarettes. The new bill will further help decrease the impact of second-hand smoke on those not smoking and discourage youth from starting to smoke. If you want to show your support by helping to get the new proposed South African Tobacco Bill (2018) passed, please contact Minenhle Dlamini, or 031 2059525,” adds Govender.

Individuals who stop smoking lower their smoking related cancer risks effectively, with almost immediate health benefits. CANSA encourages smokers to quit and put their health and the health of others first.

CANSA’s awareness campaigns rolled out at schools and universities are aimed at creating messaging to prevent the start of tobacco use, especially for youth and young adults. CANSA is excited to partner with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), Western Cape, and hosting a World No Tobacco Day event at Bellville South High School, inviting all to undertake a ‘no smoking and tobacco’ pledge to show support for the new proposed South African Tobacco Bill (2018), after educating learners and staff around the dangers of smoking, vaping and use of Hookah Pipes (Hubbly Bubbly). It is hoped that other schools will follow suit and sign the pledge – schools wishing to participate, may contact

Govender states, “Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and our lung cancer awareness video showcases warning signs and how to lower cancer risk. We’re currently working with the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the Multi-National Lung Cancer Project to create awareness in targeted underserviced communities about lung cancer through door-to- door visits. Our aim is to showcase that early detection of lung cancer can save lives and improve the long-term quality of life. MLCCP volunteers will visit in May, the Umlazi and Savannah Clinics (Durban), and the Embalenhle Clinic (PMB) educating on the dangers of tobacco and lung cancer, raising awareness about the proposed SA Tobacco Bill and offering the opportunity to patients to sign the pledge showing support for the new Tobacco Bill.”

“Another initiative is offering support to help people quit smoking via the CANSA online eKickbutt support programme giving helpful tools to quit. CANSA further works together with like-minded stakeholders in South Africa, South African Medical Research CouncilThe National Council Against Smoking and international partners, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, to provide the scientific evidence to drive the development of effective tobacco control policies to assist in dramatically reducing tobacco use, lower cancer risk and health-related disparities.


 (For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email Call 011 616 7662 or mobile 082 459 5230.)

CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support. We offer a Tele Counselling service in seven languages free of charge. We also supply patient care and support in the form of 8 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.

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