Dr Saloojee says lung cancer treatment costs the SA economy R33 billion, three times what is receive

Dr Saloojee says lung cancer treatment costs the SA economy R33 billion, three times what is received in excise taxes for cigarettes.

The continued ban on cigarette sales in South Africa during Covid-19 lockdown has led desperate smokers paying exorbitant amounts for illicit cigarettes, while others have used the time to quit the habit.

Refilwe Moloto speaks to Dr Yussuf Saloojee, former executive director at the National Council Against Smoking.

He says scientific research including papers published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the World Health organisation shows clearly a link between contracting more severe Covid-19 symptoms and smoking.

Smokers are twice as likely to have more severe disease once they get infected. So there is a very rational reason for restricting smoking.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

He insists research shows smoking increases the severity of the disease.

He cites smoking legislation passed in 1993 by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has resulted in deaths due to lung cancer reduced in South Africa.

[Lung cancer treatment] costs the economy R33 billion - that is three times what we get in excise taxes because of smoking.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

Two recent surveys, one by the University of Cape Town, suggests that between 16 and 50% of smokers have stopped smoking during the lockdown - that's somewhere between about 1 and 4 million people.

He acknowledges this is a consequence of the ban and the exorbitant cost of illicit cigarettes.

There is a myth about stopping smoking. For some people, it is easy to stop...for 10% of people it is very very difficult to stop.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

But for the vast, vast majority it is somewhere between easy and difficult. So for 90% of people it is not as hard as they think it is going to be.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

He says withdrawal symptoms usually peak within the first two to three days of stopping smoking, he says.

By the end of ten days, they (withdrawal symptoms) have gone. The craving and hunger and lack of sleep can continue for a couple of months.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

Salojee insists that the majority of people who stopped smoking at the beginning of the lockdown could continue to stay off cigarettes.

The worst is behind them.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

He seems to stop does depend on motivation and dependence.

Most South Africans want to stop smoking...that's statistics. 70% of smokers in South Africa say that if they could they wouldn't start smoking again and that they would like to stop smoking - and they have used the opportunity of the lockdown to stop smoking.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

Never in the history of South Africa have so many people stopped smoking, not even when the prices increased through taxes.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

Use the money you are saving to help quit smoking, he says.

I don't believe in forcing people to do anything. I believe people should want to do something and if they want to stop they are more likely to stop.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, Former executive director - National Council Against Smoking

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