World NO –Tobacco Day Press Release

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2020 is “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing nicotine and tobacco addiction in youth.” This is especially relevant to South Africa which has a youth population that uses a range of tobacco and nicotine products.

Tobacco use is responsible for 42100 deaths in South Africa annually, and an estimated 80% of adult smokers begin smoking in their teenage years. Most smokers also report that they would like to stop smoking, but struggle to do so. Nicotine in e-cigarettes and tobacco products is a highly addictive drug and can damage children’s brain development, with exposure during this stage in their lives potentially causing lasting severe consequences including detrimental effects on cognition, attention and moods.

A study on hookah pipe use among tertiary students (South African Medical Journal (2013)), found that 66% of those surveyed had smoked a hookah pipe, while 18% continue to smoke it. The majority had started to use hookah pipes in secondary school, with 25% initiating at university.

11% of hookah pipe users also smoked cigarettes at the same time and 84% of hookah pipe users indicated that they would not stop using the hookah pipe. The paper reported that hookah pipe smoking increases the risk for lung cancer, periodontal diseases, cardiovascular disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, because they contain chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, arsenic and lead. The study also found that 80% of the students found the practice socially acceptable; and 84% would recommend that others also adopt the behavior.

In South Africa 2,5 % of people aged 15 and above use e-cigarette (SADHS, 2016). There is no regulation of the sale of e-cigarettes or vape products in South Africa so this industry does not list the ingredients in its products, nor does it adequately inform the public of the health risks associated with use. E-cigarettes are sold in kiosks and shopping malls in spite of the fact that they are only supposed to be sold as a smoking cessation tool under prescription. There are over 7000 flavours available in the vape or e-cigarette liquid, and include flavours such as bubblegum, chocolate and cream soda. This is a strategy by the industry that targets young people who find the e-cigarette or vape products unpalatable without these flavorings.

The e-cigarette and vape industry also deliberately misinforms users that their products are a safer and healthier alternative to cigarettes. Research does not support this claim, rather, they are trying to encourage a new generation to start smoking to replace the smokers who die each year so that they continue to have a market for their products.

We urge young people this World No Tobacco Day to find out more about the many ways in which the tobacco and e-cigarette or vape industries deliberately lie and misinforms them about the safety and impact of their products on human health. In that way, young people can make informed decisions and be empowered, rather than allowing these profit-driven industries to continue to use manipulation and misinformation to sell their products.



  1. US Department of Health and Human Services. E-cigarette use among youth and young adults: a report of the Surgeon General pdf icon [PDF–8.47 MB]. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2016.

  2. Yuan M, Cross SJ, Loughlin SE, Leslie FM. Nicotine and the adolescent brain. Journal of Physiology 2015; 593(16):3397–412. .

  3. The African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) of 2016

  4. Van der Merwe, N., et al. "Hookah pipe smoking among health sciences students." South African Medical Journal 103. 11 (2013): 847-749. .

For further information, contact:

Savera Kalideen: 0712270939

Sharon Nyatsanza: 079 666 1356/ 011 7251514

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