As the Department of Health prepares to mark World No Tobacco Day on Saturday, Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has warned people against smoking and encouraged them to quit.
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. The day highlights the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocates for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
Minister Motsoaledi encouraged people to protect themselves and future generations not only from the devastating health consequences due to tobacco, but also from the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to second hand tobacco smoke.
"I urge people to quit smoking right away. Smoking causes deaths from lung cancer and heart disease, and these are lifestyle diseases that can be prevented. "The Department of Health encourages people to practice healthy lifestyles by quitting smoking and alcohol, so that they can live a long and healthy life," said Dr Motsoaledi.
The department will commemorate the World No Tobacco Day 2014 under the 'Quit Tobacco Use and Save Your Life'. A concerned Minister Motsoaledi warned that the damage caused by smoking is devastating.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.
"Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than eight million people every year by 2030. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low- and middle-income countries," warned WHO.
For World No Tobacco Day 2014, WHO is calling on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.
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.
"A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and by up to 8% in most low- and middle-income countries," according to WHO.
The South African Tobacco Control Product Act (TCPA), as amended by Act no. 12 of 1999, Act no 23 of 2007 and Act no 63 of 2008, recognises that smoking is harmful to health, and therefore is responsibility must be taken to protect public health.
The Act intends to achieve the following, amongst others:
Prevent young people from starting to smoke.
Protect people from harm caused by tobacco smoke pollution.
Help smokers to quit and reduce the risks for those who continue to smoke.
Better protect babies and children from the harmful effects of tobacco.