Graphic warnings en route to South Africa as capsule cigarettes trend

Example of plain packagingGraphic images of rotten teeth and various forms of cancer are set to be displayed on the outside of cigarette packets in South Africa as its National Department of Health tries to reduce smoking rates in the country.

The packets will also contain larger health warnings on both the front and the back and will prohibit promotional text. The changes are part of the draft legislation, which the department is finalizing.

The legislation comes as cigarettes which allow users to add extra flavours while they are puffing by breaking a capsule in the filter have become a growing trend in South Africa.

And it comes as statistics show that more women are smoking as their lifestyles change and they become modern independent working women. Research shows that up to 13% of the most educated women in South Africa smoke. In 2003, only 4% smoked.

But with this increase, the demand for slim and super-slim cigarettes is expected to increase as it appeals more to female smokers.

According to the latest trends in the Euromonitor International report, released in August 2015, in addition to the capsule cigarettes, packs of 10 cigarettes were gaining in popularity among South African smokers.

Packs of 20 cigarettes, which are the standard pack size for cigarettes in South Africa continue to dominate. But the popularity of smaller sized packets are driven by smokers who have a lower disposable income and can only afford smaller packs which are cheaper than packets of 20 and 30 cigarettes. But the benefit of smaller packs is that they are used as a method of self-control for those who want to cut down or quit smoking.

In 2012, more than 20 billion cigarette sticks were sold. This is 4% decline from previous years. The trends suggest that these figures may decline further when the National Department of Health finalizes the draft regulations. The first is legislation on the display of tobacco products at wholesalers and retailers and a ban on smoking in public places. The second relates introducing graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

Plain packaging legislation is in line with similar legislation by countries such as Australia where plain packaging has proven to be reduce smoking.

Decline in cigarettes sales 

The report shows that both legal and illicit cigarettes experienced a decline compared to the previous year. It attributed the decline in legal cigarettes to the increased unit price as a result of excise duty hikes. But it also noted that there was an “increased clamp down on illicit tobacco” which slowed its growth.

Although rising tax means that the price of cigarettes will continue to rise, it found that some brands negated this by offering fixed “promotional” price packs.

 British American Tobacco still dominates the South African cigarette market, holding an 80% of its value share with brands that dominate the top six positions. These are Peter Stuyvesant, Dunhill, Pall Mall, Rothmans, Craven A and Kent.

The report also shows that in terms of smokeless tobacco snuff is still the most popular.Snuff is mainly used by black women, who use dry snuff traditionally, especially in rural areas. It is sold through most retail channels but the bulk is sold through supermarkets.

The law restricting the advertising and promotion of tobacco products also extends to snuff. But because it does not harm anyone else, there is no legislation restricting where one can use it.

The health risk with snuff is that the amount of nicotine in it is not stated on the packaging. As a result, many consumers are ignorant of the high nicotine content, which makes the product highly addictive.

In the same way that other tobacco products can only be in point-of-sale displays that are 1.5m from the cashier, the same applies to snuff.