What to expect from South Africa’s new smoking laws

Tobacco lobby groups have warned that South Africa’s proposed tobacco law changes could lead to job losses, while little has been done to stem the flow of illegal cigarettes.

The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Draft Bill – which has been officially sanctioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – aims to ban smoking in all public spaces, remove branding from cigarettes packs and control electronic cigarettes.

The proposals, first mooted in 2015, have garnered significant public interest as they propose a number of strict new smoking laws, including:

  • A zero-tolerance policy on in-door smoking in public places (including the removal of designated smoking areas in restaurants);
  • A ban on outdoor smoking in public places;
  • When smoking outside, smokers must be at least 10 metres away from public entrances;
  • The removal of all signage on cigarette packaging aside from the brand name and warning stickers;
  • Cigarettes may no longer be publicly displayed by retailers.

While the WHO and other civil society groups have praised the new laws for being progressive and in line with best practice, tobacco companies have complained that there are a number of other concerns that the government should address first.

“As the sale of illegal tobacco spirals out of control in SA, authorities continue to insist on further restricting the legal industry that complies with current tobacco regulations,” said Bongani Mshibe, JTI’s corporate affairs and communications director for South, East & Central Africa.

“Rather, they should focus their efforts on enforcing the existing and already sufficient regulations, working with the tobacco sector as a whole to combat illegal trade, and concentrate on introducing ’youth-centred’ tobacco prevention programmes.

“It seems South Africans agree with this view. The question is whether anyone is listening to them,” he said.

Read: Everything you need to know about South Africa’s weed laws – and what’s coming next

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What to expect from South Africa’s new smoking laws