The proposed new amendments to the Tobacco Products Control Act will criminalise smoking in any building, outdoor venue, public or private beach, outdoor drinking or eating area, park, walkway, parking area, or within ten metres of any doorway or window.
According to Louw, the new regulation will “infringe disproportionately” on the rights of individuals and private property owners.
“Of concern to the FMF is the impact of the regulations on businesses, especially within the hospitality industry, incorporating restaurants, bars, nightclubs and casinos,” Louw said.
The new regulations will render the provisions businesses had made such as enclosed smoking sections, or outside smoking areas at restaurants, obsolete.
Tobacco industry comment
In a recent statement the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (Tisa) also said that thought the new regulations to be too restrictive.
According to Tisa CEO Francois van der Merwe, the Tobacco Products Control Act 1993 made provision for the minister to prescribe regulations for designated indoor smoking areas, and now the draft regulations prohibited smoking indoors.
“This, we believe, is not in line with the spirit and purpose of the act,” said Van der Merwe.
British American Tobacco South Africa’s Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, Mr Leslie Rance, said that although the company believed the regulation had a greater impact on non-tobacco industry organisations such as those in the hospitality sector, he felt it was necessary for the company to participate in the debate.
“We believe that the government should allow the owners of businesses in the hospitality industry to continue making provisions for adult smokers as they account for a significant percentage of their revenue,” said Rance.
Tightening smoking regulation
In 2007, lawmakers approved various changes that sought to close loopholes in the Tobacco Products Control Act of 1993. Just last month (June), the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld that law's blanket ban on tobacco ads. It rejected a lawsuit brought by British American Tobacco SA, which had argued that the restrictions infringed on the company's free speech rights.
Anti-smoking lobbyists were rejoiced by the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling and applaud the latest stringent proposals.
“It goes the next step to protect health and we think it will work practically,” said Peter Ucko, director of the National Council Against Smoking. Pro-smoking lobbyists argue that enforcing such a broad ban would be impossible, but Ucko insisted the laws will work. Since the 2007 regulations, “no one smokes in shopping malls anymore,” he said.
If the new law were brought into effect, anyone convicted of puffing in a no-smoking zone would be liable to a R500 fine, while a person in control of an indoor public place where illicit smoking occurred could get a fine of up to R100 000.
Smoking in South Africa
There were some 7.7 million adult tobacco users in South Africa last year, lighting up an estimated 27 billion cigarettes, according to the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa.
In 2000, tobacco use caused 44 400 deaths in South Africa according to the Medical Research Council, this is equal to 8 to 9% of all deaths in the country.
Sources: Sapa, NCAS