In this Saturday, March 2, 2013 photo, a woman smokes a cigarette at her home in Hayneville, Ala. A new study released on Monday, March 4, 2013 offers more compelling evidence that life expectancy for some U.S. women is actually falling. A new study found that over 10 years, death rates for women under age 75 increased in nearly half of U.S. counties - many of them rural and in the South and West. There was no such trend among men. Some leading theories blame higher smoking rates and higher unemployment, but several experts said they simply don't know. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Pretoria - The government will not stop trying to eliminate smoking in South Africa, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.

“There is no scientist, researcher or any prominent person in the world who has been able to convince us on the contribution that tobacco did to humanity. All it did is death,” he said.

“We are not going to apologise to anybody. There is going to be no apology at all.”

Motsoaledi was speaking in Pretoria at the release of the SA National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

According to the study, also known as SANHANES-1, the government’s tobacco control policy had succeeded in halving the number of adult smokers over the past 20 years.

While there was a marked reduction in the prevalence of smoking, the report cited exposure to environmental tobacco smoke as a major cause for concern.

In its recommendations, SANHANES-1 called for the expeditious implementation of legislation proposing a total ban on tobacco.

Motsoaledi said governments across the world were tightening legislation dealing with the illicit cigarette trade.

“At the moment, the market is flooded with illicit cigarettes that are coming in directly through the ports. We are about to get an instrument around the world to control that. There is going to be no excuse or apology on the use of tobacco.”

On the food front, the HSRC report indicated that price was the key factor for most South Africans when shopping for food.

Prof Demetre Labadarios said the option of cheaper grocery items resulted in people consuming diets high in fat and sugar.

“It is clear that women do the grocery shopping. For almost 65 percent of them, what is important to them when deciding to buy food is how much the food costs. It makes sense, but has consequences.

“The second factor is the taste of the food. The fact that the food they buy is tasteful matters more to women than to men. That also makes sense,” said Labadarios.

According to SANHANES-1, only one in seven shoppers considered the health implications of the food they bought.

“Against this background, we have the prevalence of anaemia in adults. It is 12.2 percent in males, but in females it is almost double at 22 percent.”

Labadarios said the number of underweight people in South Africa had decreased. The survey found more women were obese than men.

“Remarkably, at the age of 65, 79.8 percent of women are above the cut-off point of 1/8waist circumference 3/8 which is 80cm. That is phenomenal,” he said.

Compared to the 2003 SA demographic and health survey, the SANHANES-1 study showed the percentage of underweight people and people with normal body mass in the population had decreased, while those who were overweight and obese had increased.

The SANHANES-1 survey was compiled by a research consortium comprising the HSRC and the Medical Research Council, and was financed by the health department and the UK's department for international development.