Out­rage over pro­posed to­bacco bill

The Sunday Independent - - Front Page - TSHEGO LEPULE

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.”

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