Annual nasty Nic reminder

Tony Westwood, Claremont

Thursday May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, our annual reminder that, from growers of tobacco through tobacco users and national economies to the environment, there is nothing good about tobacco and nicotine (“Nasty Nic”).

South Africa has an excellent track record of trying to minimise harms from tobacco on her citizens. The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, currently in its public participation phase in parliament, is the latest salvo in this protective war.

The health effects of tobacco are quite well known, though the full effect of smoking (such as one in two smokers will die early from the habit), environmental tobacco smoke (such as doubling the chances of pneumonia in young children), and third hand smoke (the effects of residual tobacco smoke even after the cigarette has been extinguished) are underestimated by many. The negative effects of cigarettes and other tobacco and nicotine delivery systems on the environment are less well-known.

The accompanying picture is a collage of six of the eight discarded cigarette packets I saw (and disposed of) while walking between Imam Haron and Kromboom roads last weekend. I also counted six waste bins in that short journey. Walking between Kenilworth Centre and Kenilworth railway station I counted 218 cigarette butts and 16 cigarette packets on the ground. Waste bins occurred every 30 metres or so.

Cigarette packets constitute plastic pollution. Filters (which make smoking tobacco no safer) contain many toxins that leach into the soil. Together they constitute a significant mass in landfills worldwide. Beyond cigarette waste, discarded e-cigarettes constitute a new form of electronic waste. The

Bill seeks to expand no-smoking zones of safety to outdoor public spaces and to regulate e-cigarette availability and use. Both measures should reduce all forms of tobacco pollution and deserve support.

All of us must encourage people who smoke to kick Nic. They must also be encouraged to dispose of their waste safely if they cannot kick Nic (yet).

Let us all move towards the goal of a tobacco and nicotine-free South Africa.