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.”

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