HEALTH ISSUE: South Africa was one of the first developing countries to impose a 50% excise tax on the price of cigarettes, in 1994, and banned tobacco advertising in 2001.     Picture: Reuters/Umit Bektas
HEALTH ISSUE: South Africa was one of the first developing countries to impose a 50% excise tax on the price of cigarettes, in 1994, and banned tobacco advertising in 2001. Picture: Reuters/Umit Bektas
HEALTH ISSUE: South Africa was one of the first developing countries to impose a 50% excise tax on the price of cigarettes, in 1994, and banned tobacco advertising in 2001.     Picture: Reuters/Umit Bektas
HEALTH ISSUE: South Africa was one of the first developing countries to impose a 50% excise tax on the price of cigarettes, in 1994, and banned tobacco advertising in 2001. Picture: Reuters/Umit Bektas
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is widely expected to announce new measures against smoking when he opens an international tobacco control conference today, including a ban on smoking in all public places, plain cigarette packages and graphic pictorial health warnings on packs.

More than 2000 tobacco control experts from 100 countries are in Cape Town for the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, the first time the global conference is being held in Africa.

The conference will also be opened by World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who has donated more than $1billion to controlling tobacco.

South Africa, once a leader in tobacco control, has lagged behind in controlling tobacco products, which kill an estimated 7million people a year.

Two years ago, Motsoaledi said he was considering laws to make all public spaces smoke free, banning branding from tobacco packages and forcing manufacturers to put pictures of people suffering from smoking-related diseases on their packs.

No regulations have been forthcoming yet, but the cabinet met last week, and it is understood that Motsoaledi outlined his proposals there.

South Africa was one of the first developing countries to impose a 50% excise tax on the price of cigarettes, in 1994, and banned tobacco advertising in 2001.

Professor Corne van Walbeek, the director of the Economics of Tobacco Control Project at the University of Cape Town, said that between 1994, when South Africa announced the excise tax, and 2004, the retail price of cigarettes had more than doubled.

In 1994, almost a third of people (31%) smoked, and this had dropped to less than a quarter (24%) by 2004.

But Van Walbeek warned: “Since 2004 South Africa’s tobacco control strategy has largely fizzled out. The 1990s passion of using excise tax as a means to reduce smoking has disappeared”.

Between 2004 and 2014, smoking decreased by 4% to 20%, but the number of smokers has remained at around 7.5 million people because of population increases. 

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