Stellenbosch University
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Author: Dr. Lynne Julie
Published: 30/05/2019

31 May marks World No Tobacco day.

The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on "tobacco and lung health."

Lungs were made to breathe clean air, receiving oxygen from incoming air which enters the bloodstream, and allows carbon dioxide (a waste gas) to leave the blood. Unhealthy lungs are not able to do this well, causing poor health.

Tobacco smoking is the main cause for unhealthy lungs, lung cancer, and over 20 other types of cancer. Nicotine exposure also negatively affects brain development in teens and young adults.

Why should I quit smoking?

  • The global health burden caused by tobacco smoking is responsible for over two thirds of lung cancer deaths. Tobacco-related diseases kill over 52 100 South Africans and 5.4 million people worldwide annually, of which close to 900 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke…
  • Tobacco usage increases the risk of over 20 types of cancer: cancer of the lungs, renal pelvis, oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx, oesophagus, larynx, nasal cavity and sinus, ureter, bladder, pancreas, kidney, stomach, colorectum, uterine cervix, breast, ovary and myeloid leukaemia.
  • Even if someone isn't a smoker, second-hand smoke from people smoking around them can increase their risk for lung cancer.
  • Smoking during pregnancy and exposure to second-hand smoke are both linked to miscarriages, low birth weights and stillbirths. Babies who breathe in second-hand smoke have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • E-Cigarettes must be included when considering health risk of passive smoking (second hand smoke), because the use of these products leads to the emission of fine / ultrafine inhalable liquid particles, nicotine and cancer-causing substances into the air.
  • Tobacco smoking accounts for one in five cases of Tuberculosis (TB). Tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke can also trigger inactive TB infections. Those with active TB may risk disability or even death by smoking.
  • Smokers with HIV have three times the chance of getting TB compared to non-smokers with HIV.
  • It's not only cigarettes that are harmful to health: hookah pipe (hubbly bubbly) smoking, cigars, pipes and tobacco products consumed orally or nasally (snuff, snus, and chewing tobacco), also have a detrimental effect on health. E-cigarettes have not been scientifically proven to be safe either.


Quitting tobacco use can have a positive effect on your health and lifestyle including:

  • 20 minutes after the last cigarette, blood pressure and pulse rate drops; body temperature rises toward normal
  • 8 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in blood drops to normal; oxygen level rises to normal
  • 24 hours after quitting, the chance of a heart attack decreases
  • 48 hours after quitting, nerve endings start re-growing; the ability to smell and taste is enhanced
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, circulation improves; walking becomes easier; lung function improves
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting, there is a decrease in coughing; sinus congestion; fatigue; shortness of breath
  • 1 year after quitting, excess risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker
  • 5 years after quitting, risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, and bladder are cut in half; cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker
  • After 5 to 15 years, stroke risk is reduced to that of non-smokers
  • 10 years after quitting, risk of lung cancer drops to as little as one-half that of continuing smokers; risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases; risk of ulcer decreases
  • 15 years after quitting, risk of coronary heart disease is now similar to that of people who have never smoked; risk of death returns to nearly the level of people who have never smoked


Quitting smoking lowers the risk for cancer, coronary heart disease and improves the functioning of blood vessels, the heart and lungs.

Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would otherwise be lost if you continue to smoke.


As of 1 January 2019, Stellenbosch University's Tygerberg Campus is a smoke-free campus – the first one in South Africa! Find out more here and here.

To date, the doctors at Campus Health Service at the Tygerberg Campus have seen 26 clients who were assessed for smoking cessation.


If you would like help with quitting tobacco and related products, please make an appointment to see a doctor at Campus Health Service. You can find our contact details here