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South Africa’s Tobacco Bill Will Save Lives – Don’t Let Big Tobacco Derail It

(Cape Town, South Africa) – Global health organization Vital Strategies today called on South Africa’s government to act to protect health and save lives by passing and implementing The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill.

Sandra Mullin, Vital Strategies’ Senior Vice President, Policy, Advocacy and Communication, said “It is clear from my current visit here in South Africa that under the guise of supporting consumer choice, the tobacco industry is aggressively lobbying policymakers and using front groups to oppose a strong tobacco control bill. This is really about enabling the tobacco industry to continue to hook children on a product that kills half to two-thirds of lifetime users.

“When we launched The Tobacco Atlas in Cape Town earlier this year, we warned that the tobacco industry targets countries across Africa to maximize profits – to the detriment of those countries. That has been clearly evident in South Africa in recent weeks.

“The new tobacco control bill can make a vital contribution in reducing preventable disease and death in South Africa. And it can set a strong example to other countries across the continent. We urge the Government and Parliament to stand up to the industry’s intimidation and act to protect South Africa’s people by passing this Bill.”

Tobacco use and harm in South Africa

Tobacco kills more than 42,100 people in South Africa every year, according to The Tobacco Atlas. South Africa’s Fact Sheet shows that more than 55,000 children (10-14 years old) and 6,321,000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day. Nearly a third (31.4%) of men smoke, and a higher proportion of women (6.5%) and youth (1.68% of boys and 0.81% of girls aged 10-14 years) smoke than is the average in comparable countries – putting them at risk of tobacco-related disease and death. This demonstrates the need for strong tobacco control laws to protect youth. And a recent ten-country study and report from the African Tobacco Control Alliance highlighted the specific dangers of the sale of single cigarettes.

The Bill will protect non-smokers by restricting smoking in public places. It will also encourage smoking cessation and deter youth from starting to smoke by introducing plain standardized packaging for tobacco products, strengthening existing tobacco marketing restrictions by banning point-of-sale advertising and displays, and scrapping the sale of single cigarettes that encourage youth smoking. 

The evidence to support plain packaging

According to research in Australia, which was the first country to adopt plain packaging, this policy alone was responsible for a quarter of the reduction in smoking prevalence in Australia between December 2012 and September 2015. Other studies found that the introduction of plain packaging led to a 78% increase in the number of calls to the Quitline. 31% of teens who had experimented with tobacco were less likely to do so again and 41% of teen smokers had thought about or tried to quit because of plain packaging.

The Tobacco Atlas, sixth edition, launched at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town on March 8th, 2018.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact