The highest number of smoking-related deaths in South Africa by race are in
the coloured community, a new study has found.
"The analysis of nearly half-a-million death records found the highest
tobacco-related mortality was in the coloured population group," the SA
Medical Research Council (MRC) said on Friday.
"In this group, smoking causes one in four of all deaths in middle-aged
men and one in six of all deaths in middle-aged women."
The MRC said the study was published in a research article in British
medical journal The Lancet on Friday.
The council helped fund the study, along with the United Kingdom MRC, Cancer
Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the New South Wales Cancer
However, the study found that the black population accounted for more than
half of all the deaths from smoking in South Africa, because of its larger
Proportion of deaths lower in black community
"At present, the death rate from smoking is not yet as high in the
black African population as in the white or coloured population, but the
researchers warn that this is likely to change if the large numbers of young
black African adults who now smoke continue to do so."
The study found that between the ages of 35 and 64, the excess risk of death
among smokers was greater in the coloured than in the white population.
The proportion of coloured people who had smoked at these ages was also much
higher than whites.
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The council said South Africa was the first, and so far the only, country to
record smoking on death registration forms.
The study's lead author, Professor Freddy Sitas, said the results showed
that between 1999 and 2007 the main cause of death, particularly in the black
African population, was tuberculosis and other lung diseases.
"It is important to understand the patterns of smoking and disease in
every different country and how they vary with cultural background and
socio-economic status," Sitas said.
Smoking deadly for everyone
Co-author, Dr Debbie Bradshaw, said the message that the risks of continued
smoking could be as great as that experienced among the coloured smokers in the
study, needed to be conveyed to all young smokers in South Africa.
Another co-author, Professor Richard Peto, said death registries around the
world should ask whether the dead person was a smoker.
"This would help assess national death rates from smoking and would
help countries discover whether deaths from smoking are increasing or
decreasing," Peto said.
"There will be hundreds of millions of tobacco deaths this century if
current smoking patterns continue."