The Sunday Independent
Outrage over proposed tobacco bill
THE GOVERNMENT has been urged to scrap its proposed Tobacco Bill following a huge outcry from the industry around stricter smoking laws.
This comes after the date for public submissions closed this past Thursday on the Department of Health’s Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery System Bill which seeks to impose restrictions around the selling and smoking of cigarettes.
The bill seeks to introduce provisions that will see the banning of point of sale advertising and displaying, the introduction of plain packing, scrap the sale of single cigarettes, ban smoking areas in bars and restaurants as well as stricter regulations around smoking in public spaces.
But organisations representing informal traders, hawkers, e-cigarettes traders and unions have hit out against the bill stating that not only will it kill the industry by way of job losses but will put the industry, which is already plagued by an illicit trade market, further into the black market.
Western Cape Liquor Traders’ Ben Mdebuka said: “We feel that this bill as it stands will undermine the livelihood of the people in the townships.”
The SA Informal Traders Association (Saita) claim this bill will cost its members a third of their profits if it is brought into law as it stands.
The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) has also raised concerns around the bill damaging the economy by reducing free and fair competition.
“Marketing is not only a right for businesses but a consumer right,” said Nafcoc president Lawrence Mavundla.
“The Tobacco Bill seems to be in direct conflict with South Africa’s competition policy as it reduces the right of producers to compete and the right of consumers to choose. It also occurs to us that there will be an increase in tobacco smuggling as legal producers find it harder to reach their consumers.”
Legal expert Shane Johnson said the bill in its current form raises a number of legal issues regarding its rationality and whether it is enforceable.
“The way that it is drafted is certainly not in line with how legislations in South Africa are usually drafted and enforced and there are certain provisions that are normally included in a bill which are currently absent in this bill as it currently stands, for example the exemption mechanism. Most pieces of legislation that impose restrictions of this nature usually have an exemption procedure that can be followed by any company or person who wishes to be exempt from the legislation on good cause, and that is missing from the bill as it stands,” he said.
“The issue of enforcement is something the department did not consider because how is smoking currently policed? I don’t think we are approaching strict enforcement on the current legislation so I don’t understand how the legislation is being made stricter.
“If we look at the impact this bill is going to have on the e-cigarettes and vapour, an industry that is very new, that is why you see such a big outcry because they realise if they are lumped together with tobacco products, it will crush the industry. If you see the bill, it prohibits the displaying of products and they have to have a little sign that says you sell these products so what is going to happen to these products is that they are going to go underground and they will be sold on the black market, making it even harder to regulate.
“The bill is very vague, it is poorly drafted, it leaves behind a lot of gaps and if it is promulgated and brought into law, it is definitely going to open itself up to challenges in court as to its interpretation, its enforceability and rationality and that is why we saw a lot of concern from the public.”