Cape Town - Proposed regulations that would limit the display of tobacco products at all stores could prove detrimental to the survival of small businesses.

In a national effort to curb tobacco dependence and enforce smoking legislation, the Department of Health is considering regulating the displays of tobacco at both wholesale and retail level.

This proposed amendment to the Tobacco Products Control Act has small businesses, especially tobacconists, up in arms, saying if the regulation is enforced it will have dire consequences for them.

The regulations would limit the size of the display areas for tobacco products, which would include lighters.

It would also mean that no tobacco product could be displayed for sale within 1m of products marketed for children.

The proposed regulations also include:

- Tobacco sales will be confined to a single area, not exceeding four square metres for specialist tobacconists or one square metres for wholesalers and retailers.

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

- Tobacco products may not face towards a window or a public entrance unless the window or public entrance is at least two metres from the display.

- Not more than one packet of each tobacco product may be displayed at a time.

Yusuf Safeda, owner of a family retail store in Athlone, said yesterday the sale of tobacco products accounted for at least 16 percent of his monthly revenue, and that the government should rather focus its efforts on curbing the illicit trade in tobacco.

“The regulations are ridiculous,” he said.

The sale of illegal cigarettes had already forced Safeda to decrease his mark-up price on products.

He said the regulation would put further strain on his business.

Yesterday a group of business owners, including branch manager for Clippa lighter suppliers, Julie-Ann van Niekerk, said they would this week write to the Department of Small Business Development to intervene in the talks about the regulations, and called for an exemption for specialist tobacconists.

Department spokesman Cornelius Monama said the department had not conducted an investigation and therefore he could not comment.

Saeed Khot, a specialist tobacconist in Milnerton Mall, said his shop measured about 30 square metres.

Should the regulations come into effect, he would have to close his shop.

Department of Health spokesman Joe Maila said: “Our aim is to strengthen the law against the harmful effects of smoking. We are doing a thorough investigation.”

The regulations did not extend to the sale of electronic cigarettes. - The Cape Times