The Department of Health said it had no intention of undermining economic interests of the small business sector, or of taking jobs away from people with the introduction of the Tobacco Products Control Bill.
This followed harsh criticism of the proposed bill by a number of associations, including the SA Informal Traders Association (Saita), the SA Spaza and Tuckshop Association (Sasta), and, most recently, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc), which advocates the development of small business and black economic empowerment.
Department spokesperson Popo Maja said: “The department cannot promote ‘economic development claims’ that will cost some their lives or impact negatively on their health.
‘‘There is no economic development if people are sick or dead. The mandate of the department is to protect public health.”
The bill aims to, among other things, control smoking in public places, regulate the sale and advertising of tobacco products, make provision for the standardisation of packaging of cigarettes, and ban the sale of loose cigarettes.
Maja said the department had included clauses in the bill that were backed by evidence relating to harms on health.
Public comment regarding the draft bill closed yesterday.
“The department is aware of the tactics used by the tobacco industry in other countries to mislead the public.
‘‘The use of nicotine products is a leading cause of respiratory cancers the world over,” Maja said.
Saita president Rosheda Muller had previously said informal traders could face a five-year prison sentence if they displayed cigarettes for sale, and the association would make a formal submission to the department.
Sasta also objected to the Tobacco Products Control Bill, arguing spaza and tuckshop owners should either be exempted from it entirely, or that it be scrapped.