A number of health groups have called for the speedy introduction of the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill in South Africa.
The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa and South African Medical Research Council have all called for the swift introduction of the bill after the ban on the sale of tobacco products was lifted at midnight on Monday (17 August).
Savera Kalideen, executive director of NCAS, said that when the bill is passed it will make it easier for South Africans to choose ‘smoke-free lives’, will regulate e-cigarettes or vape products, and will decrease the impact of second- hand smoke on 80% of the population, who are non-smokers.
“The ban was always going to be temporary. However, the long-term need for improvements in the country’s tobacco control policies remains,” said Kalideen.
“The bill is even more critical with the coronavirus pandemic still claiming lives – yet, it has stalled since published for public comments from May to August 2018.”
Kalideen said that the e-cigarette or vaping industry in particular, is operating in a ‘legislative vacuum’.
“We call on the minister of health to urgently expedite passage of the bill to protect public health and reduce the burden on the public health system.”
Public Health Policy and Development consultant Zanele Mthembu said that passing the bill will also help prepare for the implementation of the National Health Insurance because of the benefits of prevention to the health system.
“The health of our nation is key to building a thriving society,” Mthembu said.
“We implore our government to move to the next stage and process the Tobacco Control Bill to ensure proper regulation of the tobacco industry and the protection of the health of the nation, primarily the children.”
Ban on smoking in public places
Deputy health minister Joe Phaahla said in May that the government was in process of finalising the bill which will allow it to impose a 100% ban on smoking in public areas.
He said that the government is also moving to identify areas that need strengthening in terms of legislation, including the regulation of e-cigarettes and related products.
“We’re finalising the Tobacco Control Bill to close the gap to protect the public from harmful effects of tobacco use. We continue to identify areas that need strengthening in terms of legislation,” he said.
The current smoking law bans smoking in public places, but allows for designated smoking areas in places like bars, taverns and restaurants provided that they do not take up more than 25% of the venue.
“We want to change the 25% allowed smoking in public areas to 100% prohibition of smoking in public areas.”
The deputy minister noted that smoking among adults has reduced from 32% in 1992 to 18% in 2012, in South Africa. He said that more recent studies have shown that this number has since increased to more than 21%.
He said that tobacco kills around 20,000 people in South Africa annually.