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SA’s high toll of heart disease can be reduced by better tobacco control

Publish Date:

September 29, 2022

September is Heart Awareness Month, culminating on World Heart Day (WHD) on 29 September.  Protect our Next, a coalition of health organisations supporting better tobacco control, highlights South Africa’s high tobacco consumption as a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), saying that tobacco control measures in South Africa that could help prevent unnecessary CVD and other deaths from non-communicable diseases are urgently needed. 

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), heart disease and strokes have the second highest mortality rate in South Africa, after TB, HIV and AIDS. CVDs are responsible for one in five deaths, with over 82 000 lives lost annually. 225 South Africans are killed by heart disease every day.

“Every hour in South Africa: 5 people have heart attacks, 10 people have strokes and of those events, 10 people will die. Yet, the triggers that give us our high cumulative risk score for CVDs, including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol, are entirely preventable,” says Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of HSFSA and President of the African Heart Network.  “80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented, and with the National Health Insurance pending, the need to reduce the incidence of preventable NCDs is even more pressing.” 

The 2021 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-SA) reveals that 29.4% of people in South Africa use tobacco. “Smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease than non-smokers. The younger you start, the higher your risk.  Even if you smoke one cigarette a day, your risk is 50% that of the risk of heavy smokers. We must go for zero tolerance and reduce our smoking rates.”

Naidoo says that stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart and health. “It’s never too late to stop because there are almost immediate benefits; and if you continue to stay away from smoking, over time your risk of heart disease and stroke can fall to one that is almost equal to that of a non-smoker. E-cigarettes or vape products are just as addictive as tobacco smoking and can cause significant harm to the cardiovascular system. We urge all South Africans to use their hearts to make healthier choices and prevent heart disease.”

The HSFSA partners with health organisations including the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF) in the Protect our Next initiative to encourage Parliament to pass the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, which Cabinet has now approved to be submitted to Parliament. “We are determined to drive awareness of the need to urgently pass the Tobacco Bill as well as educate South Africans, especially the youth, about the devastating impact smoking has on your cardiovascular health,” says Naidoo. “We can reduce risk factors by a large margin with effective tobacco control and we will not rest until the Bill becomes law.”

Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), says the five key changes in the new Bill are introducing 100% smoke-free indoor areas; the regulation of e-cigarettes; the requirement for plain or standardised packaging and pictorial health warnings; banning advertising at tills; and eliminating cigarette vending machines. “To prevent the crippling health impact of smoking and reduce South Africa’s high incidence of NCDs, including CVD, that deplete our health budget, we must make it harder to smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vape products, hookah pipes and other related tobacco products. This will protect everyone from damaging second-hand smoke and curtail the tobacco industry’s ability to reach a new generation of smokers through misleading advertising.”

Zanele Mthembu, public health policy and development consultant and Country Co-ordinator for South Africa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) says that an all-of-government approach, as well as a groundswell of citizen-led support and multisectoral partnerships, is essential to progress tobacco control in South Africa. “South Africa initially led the African continent in tobacco control with measures that reduced smoking prevalence from 33% in the 90s to 18% by late 2000. Now, 75% of the existing Act has been amended, giving rise to the new Bill which will bring us in line with FCTC commitments. Once passed into law, the Bill will repeal the existing Act. The government should not accede to the tobacco and e-cigarette industry demands, which prioritise profits over public health. The time is overdue to pass this Bill as promoting and protecting public health supersedes all other interests.”


#useheart #heartawarenessmonth #protectournext


About Protect our Next

Health organisations forming part of the #protectournext partnership include the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF). Together, these organisations are steadfast in driving awareness of the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes, while campaigning for the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill to be passed.



Tamaryn Brown

Connect Media for CART Agency

084 3510560 /

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