New smoking laws for South Africa – a job-killer in plain packagingACTA
The Portfolio Committee on Health has conducted more public hearings on the new Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, with participants expressing mixed views.
The new Bill has been met with both support and vehement opposition, depending on the clauses being focused on.
Broadly, the bill aims to introduce the following:
- Indoor public places and certain outdoor areas will be determined to be 100% smoke-free.
- Ban the sale of cigarettes through vending machines.
- Plain packaging with graphic health warnings and pictorials.
- Ban on display at point-of-sale; and
- The regulation and control of electronic nicotine delivery systems and non-nicotine delivery systems.
The Committee conducted three public hearings in Limpopo at Polokwane, Louis Trichardt and Tzaneen, and, like the public hearings in the North West, the reception to the Bill was mixed, with general concerns about the economic consequences of the Bill.
Below is a breakdown of the responses from the three public hearings:
Informal traders said the new laws could increase South Africa’s unemployment rate as they will be forced to close their businesses.
They also expressed concerns over the harsh penalties for selling single-stick tobacco products, which could result in a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or both.
Public participants also expressed concerns over the harsh penalties for the sale of single-stick cigarettes and the potential impact on emerging tobacco farmers.
Those against the Bill also said that the standardisation of packaging and labelling of tobacco products will also hurt employment opportunities in the advertising sector.
Opponents argued that the new plain packaging may also further promote the illicit cigarette market.
However, those who supported the Bill said that the banning of attractive packaging would ultimately lead to a reduction in the consumption of tobacco products.
Members of the public expressed concerns over the state’s inability to enforce the existing legislation on tobacco products due to insufficient capacity.
Those against the Bill said that creating a new bill without making the current one work is a waste of time.
They called for further compliance with current laws before any new laws are pushed through.
Electronic delivery systems
Reception to provisions around vaping and e-cigarettes was warmer.
There was a strong view that the Bill addresses the loopholes regulating these products and that it will ensure that consumers are aware of the harmful effects of these products.
Those against the Bill, however, said that all tobacco products are different and that electronic delivery systems should be regulated differently.
However, supporters of the Bill criticised the producers of tobacco and electronic delivery systems, arguing that they cared more about profits than the health of people.
Across all three public hearings, participants highlighted that the Bill will ultimately help protect non-smokers, children, and pregnant women from smokers.
There has been widespread concern that school-going children were missing valuable teaching and learning time as they would leave class to smoke, with strong beliefs that the new Bill will help parents stop their children from smoking.
Supporters of the Bill also argued that it would safeguard non-smokers from inhaling secondhand smoke.