Cabinet approves tobacco draft bill

Man smoking cigarette.
Man smoking cigarette.
Image: Katarzyna Białasiewicz/ 123RF Stock Photo

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's clampdown on smoking has received a shot in the arm after a proposed bill seeking stricter regulation of tobacco was adopted by a cabinet subcommittee last week.

The draft bill will be gazetted for public comment before being presented to parliament.

But, the tobacco industry is accusing Motsoaledi of lack of transparency and failing to consult it properly.

The regulations seek to ban smoking in all public spaces, remove branding from cigarette packs and control electronic cigarettes.

According to the proposed bill, which Sowetan has seen, the biggest change will be in regulating the sale and advertising of tobacco products and their packaging and appearance.

The bill also seeks to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 18.

But the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (Tisa) said it had noted with surprise and concern the announcement that cabinet had approved the publication of the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill of 2017 in the government gazette for public comment.

Tisa chairman Francois van der Merwe said a socioeconomic impact assessment needed to be conducted to ensure that the legislation was evidence-based and would not result in unintended consequences.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita), which represents 800 small, local tobacco producers, said it was in the dark about the draft bill.

"There is no doubt among our members and other roleplayers in the industry that the implementation of these proposed regulations will have a direct effect on our members and their businesses," said Fita chairman Sinen Mnguni.

Tisa members include British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Phillip Morris International, Limpopo Tobacco Processors and Universal Leaf SA, among others.

The general secretary of the Food and Allied Workers Union, Katishi Masemola, accused Motsoaledi of acting in bad faith as he had not consulted the union.

However, health spokesman Popo Maja insisted consultation on the bill was done "extensively".

"I know that there is a lot of resistance by the industry because we are striving for health warning messages and banning the product in the public space," said Maja.

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