South Africans and smoking: What a review found

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  • South Africans want to quit smoking mostly because of health concerns
  • A 2018 Health24 tobacco use survey formed the basis for a study on quitting
  • It is concerning that the majority of vaping shops are situated near institutions of higher learning

The main reason why South Africans attempt to quit smoking is because of health concerns, followed by the cost of cigarettes and family considerations.

This was revealed by Dr Catherine Egbe from the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University at the Africa Centre For Tobacco Industry Monitoring And Policy Research’s webinar on Monday.

Quitting aids

Based on the 2018 Health 24 survey, with just under 19 000 responses, Egbe and her colleagues used the results to design a study on the types of cessation aids South African smokers use to quit.

The study looked at a group of 1 720 smokers attempting to quit over the period of a year. Of them, 94.1% were aware of medication that could help them stop smoking. A total of 70,5% had known about prescribed drugs that could help them, but only 18,4% used prescribed medication in their attempt to stop smoking. Over 90% were aware of nicotine replacement therapy, although only 26,7% used this option.

The study published by the BMJ found that only two in five quitting hopefuls had ever used a cessation aid. The figure was higher among smokers who also used e-cigarettes, suggesting that any potential cessation benefits seen with e-cigarettes may be partly attributable to the use of quitting aids.

E-cigarettes aimed at young people

The study also found that out of a total of 5 657 participants, 35,5% of e-cigarette users had a perception that these devices could assist with completely stopping smoking, and 51% of them said they believed that e-cigarettes could help to reduce regular smoking.

Tobacco control expert, Prof Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, noted that e-cigarette shops are situated in areas where young people can easily access them, especially near higher institutions of learning.

“Of the at least 240 vape shops in South Africa, 39% are within a 10km radius of a university or college campus, and 65,3% are within a 20km radius of a university or college campus,” he adds.

He says that these findings are important for the regulation of advertising targeted at youth and the limitation of access to the products by children.

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