“A cleaner, healthier city”: Expanding smoke-free spaces in Cape TownACTA
Since 2020, the city of Cape Town has been working with the Partnership for Healthy Cities to increase smoke-free compliance in public buildings and raise awareness about the harms of second-hand tobacco smoke. Tobacco prevalence in South Africa is estimated to be around 20% of the adult population (aged 15+)1 and causes thousands of deaths a year. Laws creating indoor and outdoor smoke-free spaces protect the health of non-smokers and can encourage smokers to quit.
The country was one of the first in the world to ban smoking in public places in 2000 when it introduced its Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act. In 2009, the government banned smoking in partially enclosed public places such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways and parking areas. However, the city saw room to expand this scope, and improve compliance with the existing smoke-free laws.
According to the 2016 South Africa Demographic and Health Survey, 25% of women and 43% of men in the Western Cape smoked cigarettes – both substantially higher than the equivalent national rates for the same year (8% for women and 37% for men). 2 To mark World No Tobacco Day 2022 (31 May), the city announced the introduction of new smoke-free spaces, having amended a local workplace policy to ensure fewer places to smoke or purchase cigarettes within all buildings owned by the city. 3
In parallel to establishing new smoke-free spaces, the city authorities also launched a communication campaign throughout the city to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking. The campaign featured images of popular Cape Town locations, promoting a cleaner, healthier and happier Cape Town. Cape Town’s overall objective is to reach 95% compliance with the national smoke-free law in public buildings, via both communications campaigns and additional enforcement efforts. In doing so they will be both supporting national tobacco control efforts and protecting the health of the inhabitants of Cape Town and the environmental well-being of the city itself.
The city hosted events at University of Western Cape and with several primary schools for the 2022 World No Tobacco Day, reiterating its theme of the environmental damage caused by tobacco. Tobacco products are the most littered product on the planet, and it reportedly costs South Africa more than R2.3 billion every year to clean up discarded tobacco products. To highlight this issue, city activities included a clean-up campaign to remove litter from cigarettes on two of the city’s beaches. There were also virtual and in-person events to promote public awareness about the environmental risks caused by tobacco products and the industry.
The city of Cape Town originally joined the Partnership for Healthy Cities in 2017 to raise public awareness on the health risks of sugar sweetened beverages linked to a new national levy on these items.