With nearly six million people around the
world dying of tobacco related illnesses each year and well over 44 000 of
these being South Africans, big strides need to be taken to ensure that this
figure is significantly reduced locally. Genesis Medical Scheme has realised
the gravity of this issue, deciding to support its members in their smoking
cessation efforts through provision of an option to use their savings for
hypnosis – a first in South Africa.

Brian Watson, Medical Scheme Executive at
Genesis Medical Scheme, says that kicking the habit is extremely hard for
smokers and providing members with the access to this form of treatment, gives
them the support they need to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“Scary statistics from the World Health
Organisation estimate that by 2020 smoking will have caused more deaths than
HIV, Tuberculosis, maternal mortality, car accidents, suicide and murder
combined. South Africans need to realise the dangers of smoking. Not only is it
a very expensive habit to maintain, but the medical costs associated with the
treatment of smoking related illnesses are becoming increasingly expensive,”
says Watson.

He says that the healthcare system and
medical aid providers are saddled with the cost burden of resultant illnesses.
“Due to smoking affecting nearly every organ of the human body, smokers are
more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, lung
cancer and chronic respiratory disease. In the long-term, smokers utilise healthcare services more frequently as
they typically fall ill more often than non-smokers and this results in private
and public healthcare systems being forced to compensate for the associated
costs,” adds Watson.

do the statistics reveal?

Watson points to statistics which reveal
that undergoing hypnosis as a means to quit smoking has a 90.6% success rate.
“These results are staggeringly positive and therefore our members are
encouraged to make use of this form of treatment in an attempt to quit smoking
and lead a healthier lifestyle. However, hypnosis can only be effective with
full consent and commitment,” says Watson.

He adds that people who are looking to quit
should be careful when selecting a hypnosis practitioner to assist
them. “We advise that members, and others, make use of a qualified hypnosis
practitioner who is registered with The South African Institute of
Hypnotherapy. The use of an unregistered hypnotist can do more harm than good
and the cost of such treatment will also not be covered from the member’s
medical savings account.”

“More often than not, smokers do not
realise that by smoking, they incur more costs than just the actual cost of
cigarettes and medical bills. As a smoker, you are likely to be subject to
insurance penalties which are added on to the premiums of life insurance
policies. Luckily, when smokers subsequently kick the habit and stay off for a
year, their premium surcharges are likely to be removed and adjusted to an
ordinary premium,” says Watson.

smoking eliminates the risk of heart disease

According to Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of
the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, smoking is the single most
preventable cause of death globally and at least doubles the risk of having a
heart attack or stroke. “The good news is that by quitting smoking, along with
eating healthily and regularly being physically active, about 80% of all
cardiovascular disease can be prevented. Once you quit, you will feel the
benefits almost immediately – within 12 hours your circulation improves, and
within 1 year of quitting your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that
of a smoker,” says Mungal-Singh.

Statistics reveal that a typical smoker
loses about 25 years on their life expectancy which results in premature death.
“Each packet of cigarettes shaves approximately 28 minutes off a smoker’s life
and even if they do quit smoking, only after about 15 years can the health
risks be compared to that of a non-smoker. Merely kicking the habit does not
mean that the health of a smoker will go back to normal, but this shouldn’t
discourage smokers in seeking to lead a healthier lifestyle, it is definitely a
step in the right direction,” concludes Watson.

Press Release, 2 Stroke Interactive