Motsoaledi challenges liquor, tobacco industries

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REUTERS

Non-smokers may appreciate tighter smoking laws but smokers and a local liquor association are not happy about the proposed rules.

Durban - Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is ready to take on the liquor and tobacco industries as he forges ahead with plans to ban alcohol advertising and introduce more stringent smoking regulations.

The minister said on Thursday that he was aware he was going to be told by his detractors that “jobs will be lost”.

Some critics of a new bill the minister is pushing for have said banning alcohol advertising would have a negative effect on the economy.

However, Motsoaledi said during the launch of a health campaign in uMlazi that the government was ready to publish the bill, which would be released for public comment before being promulgated into law.

Motsoaledi acknowledged that the liquor industry contributed R19 billion to the economy each year, but said the adverse effects of alcohol were more costly.

“Nobody is saying anything about what alcohol is taking from this country,” he said.

“The country spends R39bn trying to reverse the adverse effects of alcohol. Show me any person who buys oranges for R39 and sells them for R19 and I will call a psychiatrist.

“In health and social development, that is where we suffer the most.”

Motsoaledi said alcohol has been found to be a contributing factor in the majority of road accidents in South Africa.

For every person killed in a car accident, an average of eight more were hospitalised, he said.

Motsoaledi added that alcohol had also been linked to crime and violence.

“What about the slaughter of women and children which sometimes is fuelled by drugs and alcohol?”

He dismissed arguments that banning alcohol advertising would hurt sport, because sport sponsorship would also be affected.

In fact, he said, associating healthy and successful sportsmen with alcohol was “fraudulent”.

“Show me a sportsman who is a star because of alcohol. No one can stand here and say: ‘I am sportsman of the year or I scored so many goals thanks to alcohol,’” said Motsoaledi.

“But they (advertisers) use these sportsmen, so such advertising is fraudulent… If you take (swimming champion) Chad le Clos and feed him whisky, he will drown in that pool.”

On the ban hurting the economy, he said similar arguments were advanced before former health minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma banned tobacco advertising in 1998.

“Dlamini Zuma saved us,” he said. “Very powerful people approached (then) president Nelson Mandela saying the economy would collapse.”

He said alcohol was destroying lives and careers.

Motsoaledi is also planning to introduce new stringent laws to regulate smoking and the sale of tobacco.

Part of the regulations, which have already been put out for public comment, state that cigarettes or tobacco products should not be displayed by shops.

The government also wants to

:

* Ban smoking within 10m of entrances and ventilation facilities of any public building.

* Make all buildings smoke-free zones.

* Ban smoking at beaches, schools, stadiums, as well as in outdoor eating and drinking areas.

The new laws would place South Africa on par with some Western countries.

Motsoaledi, who quit smoking 30 years ago, said: “Smoking is one of the most stupid things that mankind has ever engaged in. No one can talk of any benefits of smoking. Why do we go on with such a useless pastime?”

According to the South African tobacco industry, there are 7.7 million adult smokers in South Africa.

But the industry says consumption of legal tobacco products has declined by 30 percent over the past 10 years.

About 2 500 people are employed in the tobacco manufacturing industry, which churns out about 30 billion cigarette sticks for local consumption and export.

A further 170 farmers and 8 000 farm workers are involved in tobacco farming.

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