Township business owners not happy about the new Tobacco Bill

Cigarettes with smoke
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Township business owners want government to exclude them from the proposed new Tobacco Bill.

The Bill, currently out for public comment, calls for the removal of designated smoking areas in restaurants and a ban on smoking within 10 metres of a doorway, window or walkway among other things.

The Bill also advocates for the removal of all signage on cigarette packaging, aside from the brand name and warning stickers.

Cigarettes may also no longer be publicly displayed by retailers.

Business owners say the Bill will be unenforceable in a township environment and will kill business.

The National Association of Townships representing about 20 000 restaurants, taverns and small business traders in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape want government to scrap the new Tobacco Bill, saying it is unworkable in townships.

President of the National Tourism Hospitality Association Fanny Mokoena says, “You can imagine in Alexandra township, you can imagine in Khayelitsha, we don’t have 10 metres away. If this law gets passed the small businesses in the township are going to be in trouble. Our members are going to be out of business.”

The Association argues that the Bill’s proposals will be dangerous for customers, as it will lead to more crime and abuse of their patrons.

Gauteng Liquor Forum Musa Ntshangase says, “The Minister says you must walk away from the tavern where you are drinking; some of the business owners will not allow you to walk out with a glass then you have to leave that glass after pouring in that glass, what’s going to happen? It’s going to be spiked with drugs. If a lady walks out of the tavern to have a smoke, she is going to be raped.”

They have threatened not to vote in the upcoming national elections if government implements the Bill in its current form. Ben Mdebuka, from the Western Cape Liquor Traders, says they support government’s good intentions but are unhappy with the proposed legislation.

“We cannot support legislation that has not been tested in a township landscape. If government is really bent on going ahead with this law, because our appeal is that government please scrap it and rather implement the existing laws, we can run with that but if they don’t want to do that, our appeal is please exempt us as township businesses from this legislation,” says Mdebuka.

On the issue of removing all branding from cigarette packages, Ntshangase has called for the review of this proposal.

“But now if the cigarette packet is not branded, it’s going to be a problem and we are going to see illicit trading also. People are going to be smoking poisonous products because you don’t know what’s inside, so it’s going to kill people,” says Ntshangase.

The Draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill will close for public comment on Thursday this week.