Smoking is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease, after high blood pressure. Therefore, to quit smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart and health. It’s never too late to quit smoking because quitting almost immediately provides benefits and if you persevere, over time your risk of heart disease and stroke can fall almost identical to that of a non-smoker. The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA encourages all South Africans to avoid smoking or the use of other tobacco products and to protect yourself and your family from exposure to second-hand smoke, or passive smoking. Both smoking and passive smoking pose very real dangers to your health as well as those around you!


  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing 1 in 10 adults worldwide, or 1 person every 6 seconds.
  • Smoking kills more than half of all people before the age of 60 if they smoke through their adult life.
  • On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • The risk for heart disease is 25% higher in female smokers than in male smokers.
  • The risk of a non-fatal heart attack increases by 5.6% for every cigarette smoked and persists even at only one to two cigarettes per day.

Cigarettes contain more than 4000 dangerous chemicals, including nicotine which is an extremely addictive substance with numerous harmful effects and is present in all tobacco products.

  • Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease and more than doubles the risk of having a stroke.
  • It narrows blood vessels, leading to raised blood pressure and expands blood clots, causing the cardiovascular equivalent of a traffic jam on the highway to your heart and brain. Reduce blood flow to the heart and you risk having a heart attack. Reduce it to the brain and you risk having a stroke.
  • Smoking can lead to numerous forms of cancer, in addition to many other negative health effects such as impotence, fertility problems, oral health problems, increased risk for other infections such as TB or pneumonia and chronic lung disease.
  • Non-smokers who breathe second-hand smoke suffer many of the diseases of active smoking. Second-hand smoke causes a wide variety of health problems in children including bronchitis and pneumonia, exacerbation of asthma, middle ear infections, and glue ear, the most common cause of deafness in children.
  • Babies born to mothers who smoke, or who are exposed to second-hand smoke while pregnant are more likely to be underweight, premature or stillborn. There is also an association with the risk of miscarriage and may even harm the intellectual and behavioural development of the child. In addition, the child has a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome, breathing problems and developing lung disease or diabetes later in his or her life.

Heart and Stroke Health Line

0860 1 HEART (0860 1 4278)

National Quit Line / National Council Against Smoking

011 720 3145

A telephonic advice service on how to quit smoking is provided during office hours. They can also post a personal guide to quitting.


021 788 9120 / 011 487 0231 / 061 190 8147

7 week quit smoking programme. One-on-one counselling

CANSA e-Kick Butt Programme

Online smoking cessation programme

Electronic cigarettes (ECs) are battery-powered devices that vaporise a liquid into an aerosol. Their use has become increasingly popular. However, scientific evidence on the health implications are inconclusive. Despite this, the HSFSA does not recommend the use of ECs as part of a lifestyle that promotes long-term cardiovascular health. Concerns over safety include exposure to nicotine, particulate matter and other chemicals as well as safety of the electronic device itself since the manufacturing of ECs is unregulated.

Although ECs do not contain tobacco and seem to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes, its long-term safety and use has not been sufficiently studied. A further concern is that ECs may possibly function as a gateway to start cigarette smoking, especially amongst the youth. In essence, using ECs simulates smoking itself which in some way encourages smoking behaviour.

There are numerous strategies to stop smoking with varying success rates. Different strategies suite different people, but the success for any individual will depend on the strength of his or her motivation to stop and readiness to make the necessary changes. Here are some tips to help you quit:

  • Make a firm decision to quit and set a date.
  • List the reasons why you smoke and why you want to quit.
  • Decide on a strategy: whether you will stop gradually or suddenly – quitting altogether is best, but cutting down still reduces harm.
  • Ask for the support of friends and family. People who have support with their effort to quit are much more likely to give up smoking successfully than those who don’t. If you live with a person who smokes encourage him or her to quit with you – it’s much easier to do it with someone else.
  • Talk to an ex-smoker. If they can do it, so can you.
  • Throw away all reminders of smoking – cigarette packets, ashtrays, lighters etc.
  • Plan: identify triggers and plan how you are going to deal with them as well as cravings to smoke.
  • Occupy your mouth: Stock up on oral substitutes e.g. sugar-free gum, nuts, fruit, carrot sticks, a water bottle to sip from.
  • Occupy your hands: Hold a pen, pencil, and rubber band or a stress ball. Doodle, sketch or draw. Buy an adult colouring book.
  • Occupy your mind: Remind yourself why you decided to quit smoking. Think about how proud you will feel to get through the day without a cigarette.
  • Keep active: Make exercise part of your new routine because smokers who exercise are twice as successful in their attempts to quit Smoking. It speeds up the body’s metabolism and quitting causes the metabolism to return to its normal, slower speed. Physical activity helps to speed up your metabolism, preventing weight gain and occupies your mind and body to help handle cravings. Read more about physical activity and how much is enough here.
  • Avoid situations where you will be tempted to smoke again – people and places – at least for the first few weeks. Ask smokers for their patience and understanding by not smoking in front of you. 
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is often strongly associated with smoking.
  • Treat yourself: Use the money that you are saving by not smoking to buy yourself something special.
  • Get advice: Speak to a nurse, doctor, or counsellor who is trained to help people quit smoking. They can encourage you to keep going and give you advice about how to deal with problems.
  • Consider using Nicotine Replacement Therapy or other cessation aids.
  • Keep trying! Most people attempt to quit 8-10 times before they are successful! With each time they learn something valuable, which can help for the next time.
  • Financial rewards. Think of all the money you’ll save if you stop smoking. Put the cash you’d spend on cigarettes in a jar, set a goal and reward yourself with a treat after you have saved enough money. You deserve it!
  • Health benefits:
    • 30 minutes: heart rate and blood pressure recovers from cigarette-induced spike.
    • 12 hours: the amount of oxygen in the blood increases, blood flow starts to improve and chance of having a heart attack begins to go down.
    • 24 hours: Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body and lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
    • 48 hours: All the nicotine has gone out of the body and sense of taste and smell greatly improves.
    • 3 days: Breathing becomes easier as tubes in the lungs begin to relax and energy levels begin to increase.
    • 2 to 12 weeks: Blood circulation improves and lung function increases by up to 30%.
    • 3 months: the tiny hairs which clean the lungs begin to grow back and remove phlegm and tar that have collected there which results in clear and deeper breathing gradually returning.
    • 1 year: the risk of heart disease falls by 50%.
    • 5 years: the risk of mouth, throat, oesophagus, and bladder cancer are cut in half. The risk of cervical cancer and stroke return to normal.
    • 10 years: the risk of lung cancer will have halved compared to someone who still smokes.
    • 15 years: the risk of heart disease or stroke is almost the same as a non-smoker.
    • Social benefits: say goodbye to excusing yourself from non-smoking friends and colleagues to go take a smoke break. Your car, house and clothes won’t smell of smoke. You will experience improved confidence, self-esteem and a great sense of accomplishment.