The department of health is pushing forward on a draft bill in an effort to get more stringent anti-smoking laws passed.
The department’s Lynn Moeng told EWN that the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill is currently in the pipeline, and that government is working as ‘fast as it can’ to have it processed.
“We are now finalising the process and once we have done that before it even gets to Cabinet, it needs to be approved by a few technical committees,” she said.
“We are in the process where we’ll now be able to submit to the various committees.”
Approved by president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet in 2018, the bill aims to comprehensively prohibit smoking in public places.
- Any enclosed spaces where children are present;
- Private dwellings used for certain commercial activities; and
- Some outdoor public spaces.
The bill also aims to regulate the use, marketing and sales of e-cigarettes or vapes in South Africa, with these products currently operating in a legislative vacuum.
Tobacco companies have already slammed the proposed changes, citing a poor public consultation process and the damage the bill will do to the industry.
South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) chairman Ntando Shadrack Sibisi said that more than 21,000 comments had been received when the Tobacco Bill was first published for public comment – and yet the latest version of the bill remained unchanged.
“Is the department honestly saying that none of the 21,000 comments made in 2018 were of significance or meaning?” he said.
“Or did the department not deem those comments to have merit? If so, why bother with this consultation process? It feels like a mere box-ticking exercise, and we believe that makes this process a sham.”
Sibisi said it was also dangerous and reckless to consider imposing the sort of restrictions proposed in the bill at a time when the entire legal tobacco industry is currently in the ‘intensive care unit’, with massive losses in income, revenue and jobs.
Retail group Spar has said that the ban on cigarettes during South Africa’s hard Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 has had a long-term impact on sales.
This was highlighted in the group’s unaudited interim results for the six months ended 31 March 2021, which were published on 25 May.
Spar’s data shows that alcohol sales were greatly impacted by the national bans imposed over the last year. However, these sales largely recovered when restrictions were relaxed.
By comparison, the sales of cigarettes has remained subdued – even after the ban was lifted.