Farhad Riahi Right of Reply: Foundation for a Smoke-Free World on smoking in South Africa

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World has responded to our fact-check of their claim that half of men and a third of women in South Africa smoke.

Naphtali Khumalo’s December 5 article, [Do half of men and a third of women in South Africa smoke?], evaluates a statistic that we posted on the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s Twitter feed in October 2018.

In retrospect, our tweet could have been clearer, and should have stated that the statistic was taken from the Global 2018 State of Smoking Survey that we commissioned. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

We would like to clarify a few elements about the survey. The goal of the Global 2018 State of Smoking Survey was not to estimate the prevalence of smoking in different countries, as this is done regularly with bespoke surveys. Rather, it was to gain more information on the behaviors and perceptions of smokers, ex-smokers, and never-smokers regarding tobacco products and alternatives.

The survey findings provide the global community with a better understanding of smoking and the regional differences and commonalities in perceptions, experiences, and behaviors within and across tobacco user groups. The sample size and broad global survey population are a reflection of that goal. We included observed prevalence as part of the information that was reported because that is standard practice for a survey of this nature.

The two other studies featured in Mr Khumalo’s article, the National Income Dynamics Study by the South African Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, and the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the Human Sciences Research Council, had entirely different objectives that required different methodologies.

As our survey was not designed to estimate smoking prevalence, we do not think it’s appropriate to compare it with those two studies.

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World aims to support global efforts to help smokers quit and reduce their risks from smoking, which remains the world’s leading cause of preventable disease and death.

Thank you for your interest in the State of Smoking Survey and for giving us the opportunity to provide your readers with more information about this survey and its findings.

Farhad Riahi (MD) is the Chief Health, Science, and Technology Officer at the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

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