Pretoria – The South African Health Department has joined the rest of the world in marking World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).
The day falls within a month-long crusade, which is held under the banner ‘Anti-Tobacco Campaign Month’. Its aim is to raise awareness and educate people about the health dangers associated with tobacco use.
The Health Department said on Wednesday that World No Tobacco Day is a platform to promote healthy lifestyles, decrease morbidity and improve life expectancy.
On 31 May each year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and affiliated partners mark WNTD by raising the multiple serious health risks linked to tobacco use, in addition to campaigning for the introduction of more efficient policies that will help to decrease worldwide tobacco consumption.
“For WNTD, all smokers around the world are encouraged to abstain from all types of tobacco consumption on 31 May for a 24-hour period.
“Smoking remains South Africa’s leading cause of preventable illness and deaths from lung cancer, and a major contributor to tuberculosis and heart disease. Smoking also reduces the life expectancy of a smoker on average by 10 years,” said the department.
However, the department said not only smokers are at risk for disease that affect the heart and blood vessels due to tobacco. Smoke is also harmful to those who breathe second-hand smoke.
WHO estimates that in 2012, tobacco killed about six million people worldwide, of whom 600 000 were non-smokers killed by inhaling environmental tobacco smoke. In particular, children are at great risk of having an increased frequency of respiratory symptoms and infections, and decreased lung function. Smoking during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born prematurely or at low birth weight.
According to the World Bank, there are fewer smokers in South Africa today than there were in 2000, with about 19% of the population over the age of 15 smoking in 2015, compared to 24% of the population in 2000. This is largely attributed to the government measures introduced since the dawn of democracy to control tobacco use.
While considerable gains have been made in reducing tobacco use over the past 23 years, the Health Department said tobacco use and its determinants need to be monitored to ensure that tobacco control strategies remain effective.