gsthr logo
Quick links to detailed datasheets for South Africa at

Smoking in South Africa

There has been a downwards trend in current smoking prevalence in the general population in South Africa. Smoking prevalence was 22% overall in 2000 and declined to 20% in 2015, with a further drop to 19% projected by 2025. For men the prevalence decreased from 35% in 2000 to 33% in 2015, with a further decrease to under 32% projected by 2025. For women prevalence was 11% in 2000; this decreased to around 8% in 2015, and is projected to decrease further to around 7% by 2025. The WHO published prevalence trend estimates in tobacco smoking, as shown here, in their 2018 2nd edition report, which show slightly different smoking prevalence to the WHO country profiles. Data for the estimates are not age standardised, and were obtained from WHO databases. The trend lines are projections, not predictions, of future attainment. A projection indicates a likely endpoint if the country maintains its tobacco control efforts at the same level that it has implemented them to date. Therefore the impact of recent interventions could alter the expected endpoint shown in the projection. While the methods of estimation used in the first and second editions of the WHO report are the same, the volume of data available for the second edition is larger i.e. 200 more national surveys. The results presented are therefore more robust.

Read articles from South Africa

June 17, 2024 by

Concerning statistics on tobacco use in South Africa

The prevalence of tobacco use in South Africa remains a leading cause of preventable deaths, the global adult tobacco survey (Gats) 2021 has found. The implementation of Gats in 2021 became South Africa’s first attempt to collect detailed data about tobacco use in the adult population. Tobacco use remains a leading cause of preventable deaths, morbidity and impoverishment globally and in South Africa.System could not access the page, the text article must be completed manually

February 01, 2024 by

Watch: Mandela Asked This Harm Reductionist, “How Can I Be Helpful?”

Dr. Kgosi Letlape has been a passionate and relentless activist on the side of “the underdog,” as he puts it, for most of his life. An ophthalmologist in South Africa, Letlape is the former chairman of the South African Medical Association and a co-founder of the Africa Harm Reduction Alliance. In our filmed interview, he told Filter how South Africa’s devastating HIV epidemic has profoundly changed him, shifting him from “not just activism of talking, but of action and making things happen.”

January 08, 2024 by

Call to change smoking and vaping taxes in South Africa

South Africa needs to strike a balance between the perspectives of both economists and health experts as to how tax rates should be determined for nicotine products, says Marius van Oordt, an expert in indirect taxation in developing countries. Over the past several years, the world has seen an evolution of tobacco and nicotine products, particularly evident in electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS or e-cigarettes). To accommodate such a change, experts have been presenting contrasting views.

December 04, 2023 by

Warning over new smoking laws for South Africa

Gauteng residents are divided on the hotly contested draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, with businesses warning that implementing the new laws will have negative consequences for the country’s township economy. The Portfolio Committee on Health recently held three public hearings over the Bill in Gauteng, and much like the public engagement in Limpopo, the North West, and Mpumulanga, there was support and rejection of the Bill. The Bill broadly aims to introduce the following:

  • Declare indoor public places and certain outdoor areas 100% smoke-free.
  • Ban the sale of cigarettes through vending machines. [...]

September 19, 2023 by

New smoking laws for South Africa – a job-killer in plain packaging

The Portfolio Committee on Health has conducted more public hearings on the new Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, with participants expressing mixed views. The new Bill has been met with both support and vehement opposition, depending on the clauses being focused on. Broadly, the bill aims to introduce the following:

  • Indoor public places and certain outdoor areas will be determined to be 100% smoke-free.
  • Ban the sale of cigarettes through vending machines.
  • Plain packaging with graphic health warnings and pictorials.
  • Ban on display at point-of-sale; and
  • The regulation and control of electronic nicotine delivery systems and non-nicotine delivery systems.

September 05, 2023 by

South Africa’s self-harming anti-vaping legislation

South Africa’s parliament is scrutinising new tobacco and nicotine legislation that would throttle harm reduction approaches for its citizens. South Africa has a high prevalence of smoking (25.8% – see chart), especially among men, and low rates of vape use (2.2%). Yet the legislation is designed to obstruct South African citizens from switching from high-risk cigarettes to low-risk vape products. Why is there such hostility to a strategy that could work especially well in South Africa? Harm reduction relies on consumers and producers acting in their own interests and at their own expense to radically reduce disease risks and improve their welfare and wellbeing. [...]

September 01, 2023 by

Exploring electronic cigarette portrayals: a content and thematic analysis of African online news coverage

Electronic cigarette use has surged internationally in recent years, with numerous countries noting an uptick in users. Despite this, the portrayal of e-cigarette usage in African news remains unclear. This research investigates the subject, employing a mixed-methodology approach. The study units were news articles on electronic cigarette use retrieved from AllAfrica, an online African news archive. [...]

August 30, 2023 by

Big fight brewing over ‘irrational’ smoking and vaping laws in South Africa

While all parties agree smoking and vaping should be regulated in South Africa, a significant industry player is contesting the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill in its current form. Multinational tobacco company Philip Morris South Africa (PMSA) is pushing back strongly against the bill, saying that’s proposed laws lack nuance and scientific justification – to the extent that they are irrational.

August 10, 2023 by

Impact of the Conference of Parties (COP) on tobacco control in South Africa

The 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) will be taking place in November 2023 to discuss the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The COP will discuss updates to the approach taken by member states in implementing the FCTC. “It is an appropriate time for leaders in South Africa and elsewhere to indicate the inappropriate stance of WHO and regulators in not supporting the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs),” says award-winning pharmacological healthcare consultant, Professor Praneet Valodia. “The WHO has an obligation to support smokers and save lives.”

August 03, 2023 by

South Africa’s new vaping tax won’t deter young smokers

Throughout the world, governments impose excise taxes on products like alcohol and tobacco to reduce their demand. The South African government has implemented a tax on vaping products for the same reason. Reducing demand is necessary as there is growing evidence that vaping products are not harmless. The new vaping tax has enraged vaping lobby groups and vaping manufacturers. The vaping industry argues that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. It also claims that the tax will spawn an illicit industry, that people will go back to smoking traditional cigarettes, and the tax will not dissuade the youth from starting vaping.