The health department is set to table a proposed bill to parliament to tighten legislature and regulations on tobacco and tobacco products. The proposed amendments come amid an ongoing battle between the government and some of the big players in the tobacco industry.
Recent statistics show that almost a quarter of South Africans smoke tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars or pipes, spending just under R300 on cigarettes each month to the detriment of their health and well-being.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla will be tabling the Tobacco Products Control Bill to parliament which seeks to ban smoking indoors.
The bill proposes a completely smoke-free indoor policy, a limited number of outdoor areas, and a ban on the sale of vending machines with stern warnings on cigarette packaging. It aims to reduce tobacco-related illness, disability and deaths.
Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Unit Lorato Mahura says, “This started almost four years ago, we were trying to amend an act of 1993 but after public comment over 50% of that act was amended then it becomes a new bill so we are sitting with a proposed bill that has been sent to parliament by our Minister of Health.”
South African Medical Research Council on Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs Catherine Egbe says, “The stats released by StatsSA shows that 21% of South African households are inadequately accessing food and it becomes worrying when we see the mean amount spent on tobacco is almost R300 and it makes you wonder what happens when someone who is supposed to be using that money on food now busy tobacco instead.
Prof. Lekan Ayo Yusuf of the University of Pretoria’s Health Systems and Public Health Department states, “Why did you start using e-cigarettes and 27% of young adults said they started because they wanted to quit smoking and around 35% said they started because they saw an advert and were curious to try and there was social influence because I saw family members or friends. And it’s the young people who are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of tobacco.”
“What made it very difficult is that there are young professionals who enter schools and clinics smoking cigarettes and it looks very cool hence no one can believe that someone so educated can be smoking so who are we to tell them not to smoke,” Yusuf explains.
“Policy developers in SA are too professional to a point where they consider the business side of the industry. If it was, I would make tobacco illegal because it deprives people of their health and livelihoods, says Yusuf.
Local tobacco manufacturers however have hit back. They say tighter regulations could also see the legitimate tobacco industry go up in flames.
The tobacco industry has also warned that the over-regulating of tobacco products will negatively impact the economy and lead to job losses.
The Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill: