Maboni Mmatli

We live in a world where exploration and adventure is our ‘daily bread’, where risky and unhealthy behaviour increases. One such behaviour is the use of substances. In this article, we are going to concentrate on the use of tobacco and its risk. Today, the 31st May is international No Tobacco Day and people all over the globe are encouraged to not use tobacco. This would prevent millions of people falling sick and dying from diseases related to tobacco.

The third South Africa Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) conducted in 2016 provides the most recent data on smoking and tobacco-related deaths and disability amongst the adult population aged 15 years and older. From the results of the survey, we learn that generally, more males than females smoke cigarettes and also that smoking has decreased. In 1998, female smokers stood at 11% of the female population and males at 42% and in 2016, the statistics stand at 7% and 37% respectively. The results of another survey, conducted in 2012 by the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) with 15,401 individuals in 10,000 household showed that 17.6% of adults in the country smoked tobacco and that 29.2% of men and 7% women currently smoke tobacco in South Africa.

This puts these percentages of users at dangers of illnesses like respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other increased health risks. Respiratory disease include lung diseases because the smoke damages airways and the small air sacs found in the lungs and can lead to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The smoking also puts one at greater risk of diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels, diseases such as stroke and coronary heart disease. This is because smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicker and narrower causing increased heart beat and as a result, blood pressure going up. At times, clots can also form, and with clots forming, blood flow gets blocked to parts of the brain and this may cause a stroke.

Because of these health risks, tobacco use has become and remains the second largest cause of premature deaths, diseases and disabilities in the world. This means that 21% of the world’s over 15 year-old population is at risks of the above since the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “globally, the use of tobacco products for people over the age of 15 is 21%”. WHO further adds that tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs household and governments over 1.4 trillion US dollars through health care expenditure and loss of productivity in the workplace. “Tobacco threatens us all. It exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity and contributes to poor household food choices”, the Director-General of WHO was quoted saying.

It is for these reasons that WHO is calling on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures such as the banning of tobacco marketing and advertisements, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising taxes and making indoor spaces smoke free. The fight shouldn’t stop with governments and organisations though, instead, it should be adopted by all citizens of the world to make it habitable and sustainable.