If you’ve never tried it, leave it alone. If you’re doing it now, give it up!

These were the words of Cristal Peterson from Unisa’s School of Business Leadership during the World No Tobacco Day at a school in Midrand, Joburg.

Her words were echoed by a number of experts who gathered recently for a discussion about the effects of smoking.

They also talked about the draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill which is due to go before parliament soon. The bill seeks to tighten the marketing and sale of tobacco products and introduce plain packaging of such products.

The department of health’s deputy director- general, Dr Yogan Pillay, said tobacco exposure was a threat to smokers and non-smokers. He said disease caused by tobacco was a leading killer, especially in Mzansi, where smoking related TB deaths were common due to the risk to HIV-positive people. He said they had clear targets to reduce smoking.

Zanele Mthembu from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said 8% of women and 37% of men age 15 and older smoke.

“In South Africa, three times more people are killed by cigarettes than in road accidents and 550 men die from tobacco related illnesses every week,” said Zanele.