Updated 07 November 2013

Show that you’re ‘too cool to smoke’

As health organisations across the world observe Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Be Cancer Aware, one of South Africa’s cancer information hubs, will be kicking off their second annual “Too cool to smoke” campaign in November.


As health organisations across the world observe Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Be Cancer Aware, one of South Africa’s cancer information hubs, will be kicking off their second annual “Too cool to smoke” campaign in November.

This initiative invites all smokers in South Africa to take the first step and unite with other South Africans in support of lung cancer by quitting for the day on the Thursday 14th November.

By quitting even for a day, smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk. Within 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure returns to normal, and within eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops. After 48 hours, the ability to smell and taste is improved. From two weeks to three months after quitting, lung function increases. And that’s just the short-term benefits!

Non-smokers can also get involved and help promote the cause by donning their shades to work on the 14th and showing the world that they are “too cool to smoke”. Go one better and upload the photos to the Be Cancer Aware Facebook page and thereby motivate others to do the same.

Tobacco use can cause serious health implications

Tobacco use kills nearly six million people per year. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, which accounts for one in ten adult deaths worldwide. With this in mind, it is no wonder that research has shown a correlation between smoking and cancer, where at least 80% of all diagnoses of lung cancer are attributed to cigarette smoking.

Lung cancer and other respiratory problems can also affect non-smokers, and this is because there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Toxins from the cigarettes are able to enter the bloodstream and contribute to the thickening of artery walls, which accelerates the process of various heart and lung problems[i]. Furthermore, studies illustrate that lung cancer is no longer a male-dominated disease – there has been an increase in female smokers, leading to a rise in the number of women who are developing this type of cancer as well.

The reality of the situation

Lung cancer can be extremely difficult to treat because most of the symptoms are not visible until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. This means that by the time the cancer is found, it is usually too late to treat

effectively, and many of these patients have poor survival outcomes.

Awareness goes a long way

Smoking and tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally. A recent survey from the Medical Research Council has published some shocking results – nearly half of Western Cape learners in grade 8 to 10 are currently smoking. Adding to this, research conducted for the 2008 National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey found that one fifth of South African high school learners are smokers.

Hopefully by illustrating that smoking is one of the most common risk factors for lung cancer and that the harmful substances in smoke can damage lung tissue, South Africa can lower these statistics.

According to Dr Georgia Demetriou, an oncologist at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, “the burden of lung cancer is high, but awareness of the disease is very low as compared with other diseases such as breast cancer. This is why it’s important to get involved in awareness initiatives to help educate and inform people about this deadly disease, where early detection is key.”

She continues, “through increased awareness, together with exciting advances in new treatments, patients can have a more informed and optimistic outlook upon diagnosis.”

Beating this disease

The aim of this initiative is to create awareness about tobacco addiction and the detrimental effect it has on the body. The numbers say it all – tobacco kills at least 44 000 South Africans every year and 5.4 million people worldwide, and ten per cent of which die from complications arising from second-hand smoke.

If you are a smoker, take this opportunity to kick the habit this month, and notice the changes in your health and the people around you. The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa show that within two days of quitting, there is no nicotine left in the body, and smell and taste begin to improve. Within two to 12 weeks, lung function improves by 30% and within 10 years, the risk of lung cancer halves compared to a smoker. After 15 years, your risk of heart disease and stroke is almost identical to a non-smoker!

Smokers who feel they need a bit of help to quit can contact the National Council Against Smoking or the Cancer Association of South Africa. Find out more on the Be Cancer Aware website ( and Facebook page.

Picture: Sunglasses from Shutterstock




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