State of Smoking in South Africa | Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

state of smoking in South africa

This page was last edited on: October 10, 2019

smoking rate

party to the world health organization framework convention on tobacco control (who fctc)


since the who fctc

  • Smoking reduction: The adult smoking rate declined from 27.1 percent in 2000 to 18.2 percent in 2012, according to the latest available data.
  • Bans: The Tobacco Products Control Act of 1993 remains the principal tobacco control law in South Africa. The act bans most tobacco advertising, but there are exemptions. For example, tobacco products are allowed to be visible at point of sale, but customers are prohibited from handling tobacco products prior to sale. Designated smoking areas in indoor workplaces, public places, and public transport are allowed. For workplaces and other specified public spaces, up to 25 percent of floor space may be set aside as a permitted smoking area.
  • Health warnings: Legislation requires that 15 percent of the front of a cigarette package and 25 percent of the back display text-only health warnings. Misleading packaging and labeling is prohibited.
  • Tobacco tax rates: Total taxes on cigarettes (including excise and sales taxes) in South Africa make up 52 percent of the retail price.

regulatory environment

Established through the Tobacco Products Control Act 83 of 1993, South Africa has a ban on tobacco advertisments and smoking in public places. Amended in 2008, the act increased the age of sale from 16 to 18 years old and banned tobacco sales at health and educational establishments. Smokeless tobacco and heat-not-burn products are regulated as tobacco products, but e-cigarettes are not specifically prohibited by legislation and are subject to medical regulations. However, in practice, this is not strongly regulated, and vaping products are widely available.

media dialogue

Tobacco use has steadily declined, although the illegal sale of cigarettes remains prevalent as a means to fulfill consumer demand for cheaper products. South African media covers these issues and a growing consumer interest in vaping and other alternatives.

views of alternatives to smoking

An increasing number of consumers have expressed interest in safer alternatives to cigarettes. This trend has been most noticeable among millennial smokers.

by the numbers

  • Approximately 7 million people ages 15 and older currently smoke.
  • Smokers in South Africa smoke approximately 27 billion cigarettes per year or an average of 3,771 cigarettes per smoker annually.
  • Illegal tobacco products account for an estimated 25 percent of the South African market.

“We have a very strong anti-tobacco campaign in this country, but moving people to quitting is hindered by people’s perceptions about what smoking does.”

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