Changes put tobacco sellers in a huff

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Copy of ca p12 Alan Phillips_4772 Independent Newspapers. Alan Phillips of Sturks Tobacconists says proposed regulations would threaten his livelihood. Picture: Tracey Adams.

Cape Town - Cape Town tobacconists, traders and distributors have spoken out against the Department of Health’s proposed regulations to limit display space for tobacco products.

Most believe the proposed laws would not stop people from smoking but would limit customer choice and chip away at their profits.

Should the proposed Tobacco Products Control Act be implemented, it would limit the size of the tobacco display area to 4m2 for tobacconists and 1m2 for all other retailers.

It would also restrict the number of sales units in each premises to no more than one, for all cigarette brands, pipe tobacco, snuff and other tobacco-related products.

Shop owners would have to keep tobacco-related products under the counter, away from public view.

Alan Phillips, of Sturk’s Tobacconists in Greenmarket Square, said that should the regulations come into effect they would not only threaten his livelihood but would also affect three families his employees supported.

“As it stands with the current laws we are struggling. And in the proposed laws there is not enough information that covers specialist tobacconists like us. It lumps us all in one with retailers and others,” he said.

Sturk’s is one of the oldest tobacco shops in South Africa, having started in 1793.

“It (the regulations) has been coming for a long time. They can’t quite make up their minds about it,” said Phillips.

“We are aware that smoking comes with health risks and its addictive factor. And I get that in a situation like a grocery shop, where kids have easy access, they have to restrict access somehow, but to limit display space won’t stop smokers from coming through our doors.”

Several tobacconists, retailers, supplies and stockists of tobacco wrote to Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu last week asking her to intervene.

Health Ministry spokesman Joe Maila said he was at a loss as to why there was so much attention on the Tobacco Products Control Act when it was not finalised yet.

“Our mandate is to deal with the harmful effects of tobacco and to make sure it does not happen. There is no need for them to criticise the act when they haven’t even seen the entire copy of the regulations as we are still working on it.”

The Cape Argus visited several shops in the CBD.

Several kept their cigarettes under the counter, among sweets, chips and other items.

A Long Street shop owner who did not wish to be named told the Cape Argus that even though they didn’t have any cigarette advertising outside the shop, “they (smokers) come in and ask for cigarettes even if they don’t see it on display. Hiding it away won’t fix the problem”. - Cape Argus

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