More vague promises to ban smoking in public places

More vague promises to ban smoking in public places.
More vague promises to ban smoking in public places.
Image: Katarzyna Białasiewicz/ 123RF Stock Photo

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has once again promised to fight tobacco companies by banning smoking in public places and ensuring cigarette boxes are plain unbranded packaging.

In 2013‚ Motsoaledi told The Times newspaper he would enforce plain packaging on cigarettes. Five years later‚ he made the same promise at a global anti-smoking conference which is held in Africa for the first time. The World Conference on Tobacco or Health kicked off on Wednesday.

"There should be no space for smoking at a public hospital‚" said the minister. Motsoaledi didn’t give any details as to how he would keep his promise‚ even when asked. He said that plans to make stricter legislation where “somewhere in government processes”.

He said the tobacco industry was fighting back after efforts across the world led to a ban on advertising in some countries‚ taxes on cigarettes increased and plain packaging of cigarettes legislated in some places.

“All the signs are there that the tobacco industry is staging a fight back after a slew of legislation.” He said tobacco companies were focusing on Africa as a new market and oppressing "smaller nations that cannot answer for themselves". “Africa has the youngest population on the continent and so if [tobacco companies] want young people‚ they will basically target Africa." He wanted to strengthen anti-smoking legislation in response.

Motsoaledi was joined by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg‚ who is in Cape Town to open the conference. Bloomberg‚ one of the world’s richest men‚ has donated almost $1-billion to fight smoking and cigarette companies.

Bloomberg said that tobacco companies were taking advantage of the poor. “It is not an accident that tobacco companies focus most of their advertising on the poor parts of world‚ where education is lower.”

Bloomberg also hit back at vaping and e-cigarettes‚ that cigarette companies say are healthier as they don’t contain tobacco. Many public bodies such as Public Health England also suggest sciences shows vaping is much healthier for existing smokers.

Bloomberg disagreed. "We need to stop vaping. The cigarette companies say they don’t hurt us‚ [but] they do."

"I remember as a child that cigarette adverts all had a doctor saying smoking is good for you. I assume most [of those doctors] are dead by now‚ some by their own stupidity and dishonesty."

As he rushed out of the press conference‚ Bloomberg told his assistant to find former president of South Africa FW de Klerk’s phone number‚ saying he wanted to call him on Wednesday‚ while he was in Cape Town.

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