Updated 26 May 2016

SA set to join global plain cigarette packaging trend

The South African Government is preparing a Draft Bill to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) welcomes this stand against tobacco use.


The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) supports the call from the Secretariat of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that requires tobacco products to have plain packaging and graphic warning signs.

The purpose of plain packaging is to make tobacco products less attractive by preventing its use for advertising. Graphic warnings will show the harmful effects of smoking.

Read: Plain cigarette packs spur interest in quitting

Plain packaging restricts the use of logos, colours, brand images and promotional information. The UK, Northern Ireland and France have all passed laws enforcing plain packaging as from May 2016.

CANSA also points out that that tobacco consumption in Australia decreased by 13 percent since plain packaging was introduced three years ago – a strong indication that it helps to reduce smoking. 

Protecting public health

In a 2015 news release, the WHO confirmed that there was a worldwide decline in the use of tobacco and an increase in numbers of non-smokers. Governments were however urged to intensify their action to dramatically reduce consumption of tobacco products in order to protect public health. 

In 2016, the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg approved sweeping new rules requiring plain cigarette packs, banning menthol cigarettes and regulating the electronic cigarette market. 

Read: New tobacco laws and crackdown on e-cigarettes in EU

Problems caused by smoking

Tobacco originated in the Americas, and the first European to discover smoking was Christopher Columbus. By the 1600s the use of tobacco had spread across Europe and the British Isles.

The “active” ingredient in tobacco is nicotine which is a highly addictive drug. Withdrawal from nicotine can cause anxiety, depression and irritation, headaches and sleep problems.

Smoking lowers life expectancy, and the following are some of the most common examples of diseases/problems caused by smoking:

According to the American Lung association each year more than 480 000 people directly or indirectly die from tobacco use, which makes it the number one cause of preventable death in the US. 

In the 1960s, almost half of the US population were smoking, but more than a decade earlier important studies started appearing in the medical literature highlighting the dangers of smoking.

Read: The dangers of smoking in a car

The 1964, the Surgeon General’s report and subsequent others made the public aware of the dangers of smoking, and despite efforts by the tobacco industry to keep its clients, the percentage of Americans who smoke dropped from  42 percent in 1964 (at its peak) to 18% in 2014.

The situation in South Africa

According to a study published in the South African Medical Journal (2010) smoking causes an estimated eight percent of adult deaths in South Africa. There has been a drop in the prevalence of smoking which has been mainly attributed to sharp increases in cigarette prices. Cessation rates have however remained low. 

Elize Joubert, CANSA’s CEO, reports that the South African Government is preparing a Draft Bill to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products and that CANSA welcomes the stand the country is taking against tobacco use.  

In a recent paper, Professor Gerard Hastings, a tobacco control researcher from the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Sterling confirms that according to studies plain packaging reduces appeal of tobacco products, especially among young adults. 

Read: France to introduce plain cigarette packaging

Joubert adds that cigarette smoking isn’t the only harmful way of using tobacco, and that hubbly bubblies, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco like snuff and chewing-tobacco are also bad for one’s health. 

She concludes by warning smokers against subjecting other people to second-hand smoke, which is also harmful. CANSA encourages people to reduce their cancer risk by quitting smoking and enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. 

Read more:

Tobacco firms lose UK court bid to stop standard packaging

Show that you’re ‘too cool to smoke’

Cancerous lungs on cigarette packs


CANSA homepage:

Cancer Council NSW: A Brief History of Smoking.

CDC: Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking:

American Lung Association: 10 of the Worst Diseases Smoking Causes: Antismoking Movement from 1950.

Harvard Health Publications: Surgeon General's 1964 report: making smoking history.

WHO:Tobacco use declining but major intensification needed in reduction and control efforts.


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