Invest in your health – put down your cigarette | Western Cape Government


Invest in your health – put down your cigarette

30 May 2022

It may seem trivial, but as soon as you put out your cigarette for good, you are a step closer to a healthier future. As we commemorate World No-Tobacco Day on 31 May, it is important to know that you can drastically increase your risk of serious diseases by smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 8 million people die due to tobacco – 7 million because of smoking it themselves, and at least 1,2 million deaths are the result of exposure to second-hand smoke. Lifelong tobacco smokers lose an average of at least ten years of life. 

In South Africa, 37% of men and 7% of women smoke regularly, with higher percentages in the Western and Northern Cape provinces, particularly among women (25% and 18% respectively)[1]. Tobacco smoke weakens the immune system[2] and compromises the ability of the lungs to fight viral and bacterial infections[3].  Having optimal lung function is critical when dealing with a virus such as COVID-19 that primarily attacks respiratory health[4]. E-cigarettes and vaping have also been linked to lung damage and cardiovascular diseases[5]

"All types of tobacco have a high chance of causing lung, heart and brain disease. Smoking can kill you. To reduce your risk, stop smoking," says Dr Kelly Ahrendse, an Emergency Medical Doctor at Khayelitsha District Hospital.

Smoking increases your risk for developing cancers, heart disease and lung disease. When pregnant women smoke or are exposed to others’ smoking, it increases the chances of the baby being stillborn or born with a very low birth weight.

“Many people think there are ‘safe’ options or ‘safe’ levels of exposure to tobacco, but tobacco is harmful!” says Sr Roenell Balie, who works in the Cape Winelands. “We often hear that people think it is okay if they smoke cigarettes. Please hear us: cigarettes are drugs just like other substances. The negative impact on your health is undeniable.”


Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) contribute to the burden of disease in the Western Cape. NCDs including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide. The rise of NCDs has been driven by primarily four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets[6].

Some concerning statistics include:

  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally.
  • Tobacco is currently responsible for killing 1 in 10 adults worldwide, or 1 person every 6 seconds.
  • Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease and more than doubles the risk of having a stroke.
  • The risk for heart disease is 25% higher in female smokers than in male smokers.
  • Non-smokers who breathe second-hand smoke suffer many of the diseases of active smoking.



While the negative impact of smoking is clear, so are the benefits when you stop.  CANSA highlights that just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure improves. Eight hours after quitting, the oxygen level in your blood rises to normal. Within just 24 hours after quitting, your chance of a heart attack decreases.

More benefits when you quit smoking:

  • You will be able to breathe better
  • In time your sense of smell and taste improves
  • You won’t experience shortness of breath so often when doing a simple activities like walking
  • You will have more energy and experience less fatigue, less sinus congestion and coughing
  • Your risk of cancer and lung diseases will decrease
  • You have a better chance at a longer, healthier life
  • You will set the example for children and others in the community
  • You will have more cash in your pocket to provide for your family


Here are some tips to help you change your smoking patterns:

  • Replace smoking habits with healthier alternatives such as physical activities, hobbies and social activities. Keep busy.
  • Take deep breaths as this will help to handle stress.
  • Physical activity can help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
  • Make friends and build strong social networks for peer support.
  • Avoid reminders, triggers and temptations such as ashtrays and lighters
  • Get professional help such as counselling, therapy or medication. Contact your healthcare provider for guidance.


If you need help to quit smoking, contact the Heart and Stroke Health Line at 0860 1 4278 or CANSA’s e-Kick Butt Programme (


Invest in your health by putting out your cigarette for good.



[1] Westwood ATR, Gray D, Vanker A. Tobacco, nicotine and e-cigarettes: Protecting children in south africa. South African Journal of Child Health. 2019;13(1):4-5.

[2] Sopori M. Effects of cigarette smoke on the immune system. Nature Reviews Immunology. 2002;2(5):372-7.

[3] Information note on COVID-19 and NCDs. (2020). World Health Organization. Avaialble from:

[4] Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Tobacco Q&A. (2020). Available from:

[5] Gotts JE, Jordt S-E, McConnell R, Tarran R. What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes? bmj. 2019;366.

[6] Non-communicable diseases. Factsheets. (2017). World Health Organization. Available from: