Statement by Provincial Health Minister, Pierré Uys on World No Tobacco Day | Western Cape Government


Statement by Provincial Health Minister, Pierré Uys on World No Tobacco Day

30 May 2005
World No Tobacco Day is celebrated around the world on May 31 each year. 2005 marks the campaign’s eighteenth year of existence. South Africa’s theme for 2005 is Health Professionals and Tobacco Control.

"Tobacco is a public health priority. It has now established itself as the second major cause of death in the world killing 1 in 10 or 5 million people every year. If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause the death of 10 million people by the year 2020.

Our no-tobacco campaign is focused this year on our health professionals in the Western Cape. The appeal has gone out from my department to all our health professionals to not only set a "no-smoking” example, but to actively speak out about the dangers of smoking to smokers themselves and to the people around them. I truly believe that a smoking health professional is a contradiction in terms.

You cannot be a smoker and seriously claim to be a professional in the health care industry at the same time.

Health professionals are in an excellent position to help smokers change their lifestyles and behaviour by giving advice, guidance and to respond to questions relating to the consequences of smoking. This lets them play a fundamental role in tobacco control. Studies have shown that even brief counseling by Health Professionals on the dangers of smoking and the importance of quitting is one of the most cost-effective methods of reducing smoking.

But this is not only a message to our health professionals. It is also a message to each and every member of our society. We must all support and promote the no-smoking policies.

It needs the total commitment and support of everyone if we are to succeed in reducing or even stopping the smoking habit which is costing this country millions in hospital treatment fees and killing 25 000 South Africans every year, four times more men than women with present smoking statistics for men and women standing at 42% and 11% respectively. .

We must also not forget that tobacco and poverty are inextricably linked and how this has a negative effect on family life. Smoking prevalence is much higher amongst the poor and contributes to the continuing poverty of low-income households because money is spent on tobacco instead of food, education, health care and other family necessities.

Tobacco also effects the family in other negative ways, especially the children. The World Health Organisation estimates that 700 million, or nearly half of the world’s children, breathe in air polluted by tobacco smoke.

The presence of tobacco smoke has also been found in new born babies. Smoking during pregnancy, particularly amongst the poorer communities, results in low birth weights and can contribute to neonatal death. Smoking causes 90% of lung cancer deaths, 75% of chronic lung disease deaths and 35% of all cardiovascular deaths.

Children of parents who smoke, usually smoke themselves. Smoking also increases the risk of peripheral vascular disease (PVD), which is the narrowing of blood vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles. PVD can lead to gangrene and ultimately, loss of limb.

Smokers are ten times more likely to develop PVD than non smokers.

Throughout this month, volunteers have been manning four main railway stations highlighting anti-tobacco. On the 31st of May, there will be a special exhibition at Cape Town Station bearing a special message for us all.

I want to remind everyone of this message, smokers and non smokers - look after your health, it is not only the most important thing in your life, it is your life.”

NOTE: (Photo opportunity) The Minister will be paying a special visit to Tygerberg Hospital on 31 May where free lung function tests will be done in the Lung Unit between 1 and 3 in the afternoon.

Carbon Monoxide tests will also be done on smokers and there will be a special exhibition in the pharmacy. An expert will be on hand to advise people how to stop smoking. Jazz musician, Robbie Jansen, will be providing music.

Contact: Herman van der Westhuizen 082 772 9161

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