Cape Town - Cape Winelands residents have expressed mixed views over the Tobacco Bill, with some saying it would help prevent illness and death and others rejecting it for economic reasons.
Public hearings on the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill kicked off in the Ceres Town Hall on Saturday, with the portfolio committee on health noting the opposing views.
“Many told the committee that the damage caused by tobacco far exceeds the limited positive economic and indigenous health spin-offs derived from it.
“Some of them shared experiences of losing relatives to tuberculosis and cancer because of smoking.
“They said tobacco kills and that it is not a mere slogan to intimidate, but a dangerous warning based on scientific evidence,” the committee said.
“The participants who rejected the bill based their rejection largely on economic grounds.
“They said the bill was going to kill the tobacco industry, which is one of the key employers in South Africa.
“They said the bill encroaches on the fundamental right of individuals to make informed decisions about their own health and lifestyles.
“They said adults should have the autonomy to choose less harmful alternatives to traditional smoking if they wish without government intervention.”
The proposed policy changes seek to introduce, among others, 100% smoke-free indoor public places and certain outdoor areas; a ban on the sale of cigarettes through vending machines; plain packaging with graphic health warnings and pictorials; a ban on display at points of sale; and the regulation and control of electronic nicotine delivery systems; and non-nicotine delivery systems.
British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA), Free Market Foundation (FMF), and Philip Morris International, among other organisations, raised objections to the bill, arguing, among others, that it threatened job security.
FMF head of policy Martin van Staden said: “What a politician subjectively regards as ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ should be of no concern to ordinary South Africans and businesses. The rule of law is meant to protect us from such arbitrary whims.”
BATSA previously argued that the bill would accelerate the destruction of the legal tobacco value chain and permanently entrench a dominant illicit trade without reducing smoking.
“The 2020 tobacco sales ban, which South Africa’s courts declared unconstitutional, demonstrated the effects of prohibition as consumers were forced to experiment with brands they had never heard of before. Illicit trade rocketed,” said Johnny Moloto from BATSA.