New smoking and vape laws for South Africa – deadline extended

 ·1 Aug 2023

The deadline for public comments on the highly-contested Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill has been extended by the Portfolio Committee on Health.

Committee Chairperson Dr Kenneth Jacobs said the committee received numerous requests to extend the deadline.

The initial deadline for public comments was Friday, 4 August 2023, but it has now been extended by a month to Monday, 4 September 2023.

The committee said it welcomes public input and wants to ensure that the legislation addresses the needs of the sector and South African citizens.

The bill – tabled before parliament in December 2022 – has several proposed regulations that have been widely criticised by industry players, such as banning the display of all tobacco and related products across all retail channels.

This ban will affect cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vapes, hookah pipes and heat-not-burn devices.


A survey by Clippa Sales and Casa Tabacs involving more than 200 specialist tobacconists in South Africa – which represent over 1,700 stores which employ over 3,000 people – showed overwhelming negativity surrounding the new bill amongst industry players.

“While the Tobacco Bill creates significant trouble for all tobacco products retailers, it is clear from the research into specialist tobacconists that proposing a total ban on displaying the only products they sell in their stores is an existential risk to their businesses. These are legal products that are only sold, by law, to those over the age of 18,” Clippa’s Alex Jacovides said.

The survey showed that 98% of respondents opposed the display ban, while 99.5% believed that it would have a serious impact on their business, sustainability, and employment levels.

Three-quarters of respondents said that the bill would lead to the criminalisation of law-abiding businesses, and 86% believed it would hurt employees that rely on small businesses, especially given the current economic climate.

Diane Bravo – the owner of specialist tobacco retailer Casa Tabacs – said that the display ban would force companies to close their doors, hurting the fiscus and employment within the country.

Crucially, the bill prescribes a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine for displaying a packet of cigarettes on a counter – even if it was accidental. 99.5% of businesses said this punishment was extreme and could be detrimental to small businesses.

There is also concern that the display ban would have the same impact as the Covid-19 ban on tobacco products, which led to the illicit tobacco industry’s massive sales increase. 80% of respondents said the display ban would increase sales for the illicit tobacco industry.

In addition, respondents expressed concern over the standardised or plain packaging that is proposed in the bill. This would mean that all brands of cigarettes and related products would have to look similar.

“This makes them easy to counterfeit, which is going to drive crime and lawlessness in our country further and entrench the organised criminal networks that have grown and prospered since the Covid-19 tobacco ban,” Bravo said.

Read: Huge relief for cash-strapped South Africans

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