About 125 of the 23% of South Africans who smoke die from the habit every day, the National Council Against Smoking said. This means a total of 44,400 deaths a year, said the council in a statement.
Reducing the prevalence of smoking from the 23% to 5% in the next three decades was possible. "But it will require an intensification of the tobacco control campaign. "In particular, the government will have to look at its tobacco taxation policies which are in urgent need of revision."
Global action a top priority
According to leading medical journal The Lancet, an urgent global action to cut tobacco use should be the top priority of government.
This would assist in the fight to reduce deaths from chronic diseases such as strokes, heart attacks and cancer.
A global team of scientists had proposed that the United Nations (UN) should aim for "a world essentially free of tobacco by 2040, where less than 5% of people use tobacco".
This recommendation would be made to the first UN High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to be held in September 2011, The Lancet said.
The council said the meeting would provide the stage for powerful international action to develop, implement and fund actions against NCDs.
Every day, about 15,000 people die world-wide from diseases caused by tobacco.
"This rise is due to the tobacco industry's uncontrolled activities and persistent efforts to influence and weaken tobacco control policies," The Lancet said.
It added that key measures to prevent tobacco use were to raise tobacco taxes, place health warnings on tobacco packaging, smoke-free work and public places, a complete ban on all tobacco promotions, and control of illicit trade.
(Sapa, April 2011)