ATIM Media Statement on World No Tobacco Day: 31 May 2021

For Immediate Release

ATIM highlights several messages to mark World No Tobacco Day

May 31st is the World No Tobacco Day, an annual event to educate the public on the risks associated with tobacco use. This celebration is also an opportunity for all South Africans to claim their constitutional right to a healthy environment. In line with this year’s theme, “commit to quit”, SMU’s Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM) has highlighted some key messages from their research findings aimed at helping smokers quit:

A message to current smokers: There is no better time to quit than now. Commit to quit.

Smoking cessation has major health benefits for women and men of all ages, regardless of their health status. Some benefits are immediate, as soon as mere minutes after the last cigarette, and these benefits only grow years after quitting. You will no longer smell of cigarette smoke, your food will taste better, and your risk for several diseases will reduce, including conditions such as lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease and severe illness from COVID-19.

You will also have more money in your pockets for yourself and your family to spend on food and other essential needs instead of on cigarettes, with cost savings of close to R7,000 per year as we showed in our recent published study. Those of low socio-economic status and possibly on government welfare grants unfortunately spend significantly more on cigarettes and hence deepening poverty.

A message to Health professionals: Offer help to quit

In 2010, Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), including South Africa, adopted the guidelines of Article 14. This article of this international agreement requires that the member countries work hard to promote smoking cessation by ensuring that primary healthcare facilities routinely deliver cessation advice as part of the standard of care, and that smokers have barrier-free access to quit lines and free or low-cost cessation medications. The Article 14 guidelines emphasise the role for healthcare professionals (HCPs) in cessation programmes, including screening for tobacco use, providing brief cessation advice to all smokers, and offering cessation treatments during clinical encounters.

A study from researchers at SMU however showed there is much room for improvement in this regard:  only 1 in 4 South African smokers reported that their HCP offered them advice to quit smoking between 2010 and 2017. This is despite the fact that consistently over this same period those advised to quit were at least twice more likely to make quit attempts, which has been associated with successfully quitting.

Another study by SMU researchers emphasised the need for clinical interventions that address the smoker, not just the smoking. This is because smokers often have multiple lifestyle risk factors present at the same time, including excessive alcohol intake and an unhealthy diet. A holistic intervention should therefore include promotion of physical activity, frequent intake of fruit and/or vegetables, and avoidance of alcohol misuse, as these together play a significant role in prompting quit attempts and eventual staying quit for good.

A message to the South African government and the public: Support the new tobacco control bill

Between 2010 and 2017, e-cigarette use increased, but cigarette quit attempts did not change. Our previously published study also confirmed that the use of e-cigarette was not associated with long-term quit success. In fact, against what the industry wishes to make the public believe, e-cigarette use increases the chances of relapse after quit attempts and is associated with concurrent cigarette smoking in South Africa.

The government and the public can prevent the next generation from taking up nicotine addiction and assist current smokers who attempt to succeed in remaining quit by supporting the urgent enactment of the new tobacco control bill, The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill. The bill, among other aspects, seeks to regulate e-cigarette use, point-of-sale counter displays, introduce graphic warning labels on tobacco products and promote 100% smoke-free public places. This will provide an enabling environment for smoking cessation, as smokers trying to quit will not be exposed to others’ smoking, which may serve as cues to resuming smoking and hence relapse.

A recent study from the University of Cape Town also suggest eliminating smoking could save government R42 billion per year, of which R14.48 billion would be from avoidable healthcare costs. Such savings can be used to support the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) that would allow for the improvement in the quality of healthcare available to all South Africans, irrespective of their socio-economic status. 

For more information and further reading on tobacco related matters and ATIM activities, you can visit

The following published papers are available on the ATIM website:

Ayo-Yusuf, O. A., Omole, O. B. (2021). Smoking cessation advice and quit attempts in South Africa between 2007 and 2017: A cross-sectional study. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 19(February), 11.

Ayo-Yusuf, O. A., & Omole, O. B. (2020). Nicotine dependence, socioeconomic status, lifestyle behaviours and lifetime quit attempts among adult smokers in South Africa. South African medical journal = Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir geneeskunde, 110(8), 796–801.

Boachie MK, Rossouw L, Ross H (2021). The cost of smoking in South Africa, 2016. Nicotine & Tobacco Research; 23:  286-293.


For Enquiries Contact: Professor Lekan Ayo-Yusuf on 0834421970