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World No Tobacco Day: South Africa must do more to end the targeting of children by tobacco companies

Media Release - May 31, 2024 National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), Johannesburg, South Africa


For Immediate Release


Today, May 31st, marks World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), a day dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco use. This year, the focus of WNTD 2024 is on ending the targeted marketing of tobacco products to children by the tobacco industry. It is imperative that we address this issue, as tobacco companies view children as "replacement smokers," 8 out of 10 smokers start smoking during childhood. By preventing children from initiating smoking, we can deal a significant blow to the tobacco and nicotine industry and make meaningful progress in reducing smoking-related health, social, and environmental consequences.


Disturbingly, recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that at least 37 million children aged 13–15 years use some form of tobacco globally, indicating an alarmingly high smoking rate among children, whose developing brains and bodies are particularly vulnerable to the harms of tobacco.


In South Africa, the situation is dire, urgent action is needed from the incoming administration to put an end to the targeting of children by tobacco companies. South Africa's tobacco control policy is outdated and ill-equipped to address the evolving tactics of the tobacco industry. The Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill (Tobacco Control Bill) has been pending for over five years, costing thousands of lives and exposing children to the risk of lifelong nicotine addiction.


Studies among South African high school students have revealed high rates of nicotine addiction, with a significant proportion of children reporting dependence on e-cigarettes. Furthermore, the prevalence of dual usage of vaping products and traditional cigarettes in high schoolers is alarming, underscoring the urgent need for regulations to curb child vaping.


A University of Cape Town study among high school-going children (grade 8 to 12), found that 60% of children need a nicotine fix with e-cigarettes within the first hour of waking up. 23% can’t go through a school day without an e-cigarette and 29% get angry/anxious if they cannot use an e-cigarette. Dual usage in these high school vapers is also a common, phenomena, 17% use both vapes and cigarettes.


In February the South African Medical Research Council published a report showing that hubby bubbly, or hookah use is a real concern in South African tertiary institutions. 19.9% of students reported using both e-cigarettes and hookah whilst, 16.8% reported smoking hookah and cigarettes. 13% are poly users using e-cigarettes, hookah and cigarettes.


All these confirm the finding that young people are using e-cigarettes at rates higher than adults in many countries, by a global report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog.


Some of the decisive actions that can be implemented to protect children and young people from becoming regular nicotine users is to:


  • Regulate vaping, including its advertising, display, packaging, and flavors

  • Restrict point-of-sale advertising for all nicotine products

  • Introduce graphic health warnings for tobacco and nicotine products to enhance effectiveness and deter product use glamorization

  • End all direct and indirect tobacco advertising, including digital/social media and cross-border campaigns


These are some of the measures included in the Tobacco Control Bill. We call prioritization of the processing and passing of this Bill to safeguard children and young people from the deadly grip of nicotine addiction.


On this World No Tobacco Day, the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) also calls on smokers to take the first step towards quitting. Smokers can access free assistance through the NCAS Quitline on 011 720 3145 or via WhatsApp on 072 766 4812 and are encouraged to refrain from smoking near children.


[End of Release]


For further information, please contact:

National Council Against Smoking (NCAS)


Ingrid Bame 

Project Coordinator 


Dr Sharon Nyatsanza

Deputy Director



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