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South Africa’s new smoking rules are a job killer in plain packaging.

Reference: Published by Luke Fraser (BusinessTech), 18 September 2023

More public hearings on the new Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill have been held by the Portfolio Committee on Health, with attendees expressing mixed feelings.

Depending on the clauses under consideration, the new Bill has received both support and severe criticism.

The following are the broad objectives of the bill:

  • Indoor public locations and some outdoor areas will be declared smoke-free.
  • Cigarette vending devices must be prohibited.
  • Plain package with health warnings and illustrations.
  • Display at the time of sale is prohibited; and
  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices and non-nicotine delivery systems are regulated and controlled.

The Committee held three public hearings in Limpopo, in Polokwane, Louis Trichardt, and Tzaneen, and the attitude to the Bill was mixed, as it had been in the North West, with widespread concerns about the Bill’s economic implications.

The following is a summary of the responses from the three public hearings:

Jobs

Informal traders say the new legislation will compel them to close their enterprises, raising South Africa’s unemployment rate.

They were particularly concerned about the strong penalties for selling single-stick tobacco products, which might result in a fine, jail for up to ten years, or both.

The high fines for the sale of single-stick cigarettes, as well as the potential impact on developing tobacco farmers, were also raised by public participation.

Plain packaging

Those opposed to the Bill also claimed that standardizing tobacco packaging and labeling would reduce job prospects in the advertising industry.

Opponents said that the new simple packaging will encourage the underground cigarette market.

Those who supported the Bill, on the other hand, claimed that prohibiting attractive packaging would eventually lead to a decrease in tobacco product consumption.

Inadequate capacity

Members of the public raised concern about the state’s failure to implement current tobacco legislation due to a lack of capability.

Those who opposed the bill claimed that drafting a new bill without first making the current one work was a waste of time.

They advocated for stricter adherence to existing laws before enacting new legislation.

Electronic delivery methods

Provisions relating to vaping and e-cigarettes were met with a more positive response.

There was widespread agreement that the Bill closes regulatory gaps and ensures that consumers are aware of the adverse impacts of these items.

Those opposed to the Bill, on the other hand, claimed that all tobacco products are unique and that electronic delivery systems should be governed differently.

However, proponents of the Bill criticized tobacco and electronic delivery system manufacturers, claiming that profits were more important than people’s health.

Security precautions

Participants at all three public hearings emphasized that the Bill will ultimately help safeguard nonsmokers, children, and pregnant women from smokers.

There has been considerable concern that school-aged children were missing crucial teaching and learning time by leaving class to smoke, with high hopes that the new Bill will assist parents in preventing their children from smoking.

Supporters of the Bill also claimed that it would protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.