The window for public comment on the draft Tobacco Control Bill closed yesterday. The proposed changes include the regulation of e-cigarettes, a call for no indoor smoking areas, plain packaging for tobacco products and no advertising at till points or vending machines for cigarettes.
The eKasi Entrepreneurship Movement, a non-profit company founded in 2012 and which is focused on developing township entrepreneurship, said the bill would have dire consequences.
The organisation said, while it supported the Health Department’s goal of developing interventions to protect and promote the health of South Africans, the rights of millions of people were at stake should the proposed bill come into effect.
“Their rights as guaranteed in the Constitution will be negatively affected, violated and denied. The proposed ban relating to the display of tobacco products at wholesale and retail, and other similar provisions will not only destroy township and informal businesses, but also our heritage and township cultures. Tavern owners, hawkers and informal businesses are all concerned ,” said the organisation.
The SA Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) said the proposed ban on the display of cigarettes and sale of single cigarettes would have a negative impact on their members’ ability to trade.
Saita president Rosheda Muller said, during a recent tour in Khayelitsha to show how the provisions in the bill would affect township-based informal traders: “We are calling on the minister of health to exempt informal traders from the provisions in the proposed new tobacco bill.”
Muller said the association estimated that about one-third of the average informal trader’s income came from cigarette sales.
Thozama Gwente, Western Cape secretary of Saita, who accompanied Muller on the tour, said the alliance believed the ban on display was totally unworkable in the informal sector and the bill would also introduce plain packaging, which means all packs of cigarettes would look the same.
“For those of our members that can hide their cigarettes, they will be placed at great personal risk. Every time a customer asks for a cigarette, the trader will need to root around in a hiding place for packs which all look the same. This exposes him or her to being robbed or, worse, being attacked. The bill is making it more dangerous for the people, when it is supposed to be protecting them,” said Gwente.
Rose Nkosi, president of the SA Spaza and Tuckshop Association, said the bill was completely inappropriate for spaza and tuckshop owners.
“We should either be exempted from it entirely or it should be scrapped. We do not comment in detail because the proposed bill is inherently flawed This shows very clearly that whoever drafted this bill has lost touch completely with the realities of life for most South Africans, especially SMMEs,” Nkosi said.