The government is determined to tighten its tobacco laws that will see plain packaging on cigarette products as part of a global drive to lower the incentive for people to smoke.
Today, which is World No-Tobacco Day, the health department said it planned to strengthen the Tobacco Products Control Act to fall in line with World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
This followed the 2009 law banning smoking in public spaces.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he planned to toughen the act’s stance on public smoking, ban the selling of cigarettes at shop counters, ban cigarette dispensers and force companies to package their products in brown paper with no branding.
Motsoaledi told SABC today that the 2009 law reduced smoking from 25% to 17%.
“It is definitely working,” he said. “Many South Africans will tell you they appreciate the clean air.”
However, 44 000 South Africans still died every year as a result of smoking and Motsoaledi said the habit had “no place in modern life”.
Motsoaledi said South Africa was overtaken on its hard stance on smoking, with the UK, Ireland, Australia and France all banning branded packaging. New Zealand announced today that it would follow suit to fall in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.
“We have been overtaken,” said Motsoaledi, revealing his determination to bring South Africa back in line with global trends.
“Public smoking should not be [allowed] in hospitals at all,” he said. “At OR Tambo [airport], you move through clouds of smoke when you leave the building.”
That’s why he wanted to increase the distance that people could smoke in public space.
Regarding “subtle advertising” at shop counters, he said “we will deal with that”. “They must go hide the cigarettes somewhere else,” he said.
“They must not put it on open counters. Dispensers must also go.”
He said all cigarettes must be in one brown package with graphics that show the damage they can cause.
“No branding, no logos, no colours.”
In addition, he said they would also tackle e-cigarettes. “We are looking at it very carefully,” he said, explaining that at the last World Health Organisation conference a decision was made to package e-cigarettes like any other cigarette.
“Some have nicotine and are just as bad as normal cigarettes,” he said. “It introduces people to tobacco.”
Motsoaledi’s spokesperson Joe Maila told Fin24 that the department was considering the right time to propose amendments to the law, but warned that 2016 was a short year in Parliament due to the local government elections.
Maila said tobacco companies cited job losses when arguing against stricter laws, but this was wrong.
“You don’t have to give people unhealthy things because it creates jobs,” he said, adding other ways should be found to create jobs. He said there could be a great deal of resistance to the new laws and government could even be taken to court.
“It’s not an easy ride, but we are prepared to take it,” he said. “Prevention is better than cure.” – Fin24