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WHO report shows stronger tobacco control reaps rewards in Africa: SA lags

Publish Date:

November 18, 2021

Comments from Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director, National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) 

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) welcomes the fourth WHO global tobacco trends report published on Tuesday, which shows that smoking rates are falling globally. In the past 20 years global smoking rates have dropped from 32% to 22%. This is good news for public health, and it is a confirmation that strong tobacco control policies are effective. It also commendable that the African Region has the highest proportion of countries on track for a 30% reduction in smoking rates by 2025 (53% of countries). But, the report also makes it clear that the gains are not equal, but are closely linked to progress and efforts made by individual countries to end the tobacco epidemic. South Africa is not among the 25 Afro region countries on track to meet the reduction target of 30% by 2025.

 If South Africa continues with business as usual, in particular the slow rate of implementation of strong tobacco control policies, the WHO estimates that South Africa will see a small decrease of 6% in smoking rates. This is significantly lower than other African countries like Uganda and Kenya, which will see a 54% and 30% drop in smoking rates respectively. Both of these countries have put in place stronger tobacco control laws. For instance, they have 100% smoke-free public places, which better protects non-smokers from harmful second-hand smoke. Kenya and Uganda also require graphic health warnings on tobacco products, which have been proven to be more effective in preventing children from starting to smoke and in encouraging smokers to quit.

South Africa, as one of the 182 members of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), acknowledges that the solution to the tobacco problem lies in implementing strong tobacco control policies as recommended under the FCTC. So we know the solutions, the challenge lies in implementing these solutions with speed. Over three years have passed since the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill (Tobacco Control Bill) was published, and it still has not been passed as law. Every day of delay results in more premature deaths and disability from tobacco. 

Reducing tobacco use is not only a health priority, but also an economic, sustainable development, and human rights issue. High smoking rates threaten sustainable development, exacerbate poverty and burden the health system. To see a significant fall in smoking rates and to truly end the damage caused by tobacco use, South Africa needs to accelerate its tobacco control efforts, the first being to pass the Tobacco Control Bill into law.


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) 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.

Media Contact:
Tamaryn Brown /
084 3510560

For further information, contact

Dr Sharon Nyatsanza (Ph.D.)

Deputy Director – National Council Against Smoking

Contact: 079 666 1356 / 011 725 1514  

The National Council Against Smoking is a leading not-for-profit organisation working to promote public health by encouraging a tobacco-free society.

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