The cigarette ban in the country was “successful” and slashed a number of emergency visits for lung diseases at a Western Cape hospital, a study revealed.
According to a study by the African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine, electronic data showed that emergency centre attendance for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the George Regional Hospital in the Western Cape fell by 69,28% between January and August 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
The study found that patients presenting with urinary tract infections showed a 30.60% reduction.
“This notable reduction in COPD presentations reduced service pressure of emergency centre and most likely benefited patients’ health.
“Whilst the tobacco sales ban has had detrimental effects on economy, one of the benefits has been a reduction in emergency centre attendance of patients with COPD exacerbations, compared with that during the same period from the previous year.
“Further research and policies are needed to ensure ongoing reduction in the prevalence of smoking,” the study revealed.
But an online survey of more than 23,000 smokers carried out by the Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products at the University of Cape Town, found that 93% of smokers maintained their habit by paying up to 250% more for illicit supplies.
The study found that just 9% of people who had smoked before lockdown managed to quit.
SA, India and Botswana were the only countries in the world to implement smoking bans as part of their Covid-19 response. India lifted its ban after six weeks and Botswana at 12 weeks.
The ban in SA lasted five months.
TimesLIVE reported in February that the legal multinationals’ market share of the sale of cigarettes went from 70% (pre-ban) to 33% (in ban) to 50% (post-ban).
A report by the National Income Dynamics Study — Coronavirus Rapid Mobile found that the average daily number of cigarettes smoked by smokers decreased from 7.9 cigarettes in 2017 to 6.5 cigarettes during the sales ban and up to 8.8 cigarettes after the ban.
Total expenditure on cigarettes (equivalent to total gross turnover of the tobacco industry) changed from an annualised R32.1bn just before the ban to an annualised R72.9bn at the peak of the sales ban, and fell to R31.3bn once the prohibition was lifted.
Multinationals — British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International suffered under the ban while Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation, Carnilinx, Best Tobacco Company and Amalgamated Tobacco Company — benefited.