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Youth Smoking Prevention


At the turn of the century, British American Tobacco, JT International and Philip Morris International on a global level agreed that Youth Smoking Prevention programmes should be in place in all markets where one or more of the above-mentioned companies operate.

In South Africa it was decided to run a Retail Awareness Programme through the industry body namely The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA).

The aim of the Programme is to raise awareness about:

  • tobacco industry’s long-standing view that young people under the age of 18 should not smoke or be allowed to purchase tobacco products;
  • age of sale legislation and penalties for selling tobacco products to the under-aged.

It further communicates a message setting the age of sale of tobacco products at 18, while current legislation in SA sets it at 16.  TISA wants to see the age limit increased in SA legislation from 16 to 18 years to bring it in line with legislation regulating alcohol and gambling.

Through this programme, the tobacco industry and retailers of tobacco products took a stand saying that they do not want children to smoke and showing their responsibility and commitment by going ‘beyond what the law requires of them’.

It was decided to target 21 000 retail outlets in the formal sector as these outlets sell more than 80% of cigarettes in the SA market.

The Programme was launched in March 2003, followed by a second phase in August 2004, a third in August 2005 and the fourth at the end of August 2006.  YSP material is currently still visible in many retail outlets. Further phases are being considered.

After each Phase, research is conducted amongst retailers to measure the success of the campaign/ programme, retailer awareness of legislation, shift in attitudes, how the programme can be improved, etc.

Feedback received from retailers included that they:

  • are able to say no and deal with young people wanting to buy cigarettes;
  • are more aware of the legislation prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to young people;
  • are observing the 18 years age of sale, i.e. going beyond what the law required. At the time the Programme was launched, the age of sale was still 16;
  • appreciate the tobacco industry’s effort in trying to reduce under-age smoking and helping retailers comply with the legislation.