PROPOSAL: New regulations to hurt smokers
THIS week Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced further plans to ban smoking (and e-smoking) in all public places, hinting at tougher laws to underpin this.

The Free Market Foundation was quick to attack the health minister for being totalitarian and breaking the law for further clamping down on smoking in public areas without consultation.

We can understand the need to clamp down on smoking - it is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. Its dangers are legion, from cancer to heart and lung disease.

And yet, people still smoke. There is no doubt that a range of interventions has helped turn the tide; far fewer people smoke today than 10 or 20, years before.

The other truth, though, is that many have opted for cheaper, unregulated, pirated cigarettes. The regulated South African companies pay heavy taxes and operate in environments where the penalty for non-compliance is high.

The black market where there is none of this, is flourishing.

The danger is that if the laws about public smoking become too draconian, many smokers will not be deterred, but rather - perversely - be encouraged to ignore the laws, to subvert them, in their craving to meet their addiction. Many will end up with criminal records for truly petty offences.

The government should be alive to this danger and the apparent inconsistencies whereby smoking cigarettes (which is not mind altering) is progressively outlawed, while the ban on certain narcotics, such as marijuana, which is widely believed to be a gateway drug, is progressively decriminalised.

As with everything, there must be fairness in law and perception. Solutions must be practical - and enforceable. The reason why “soft” drugs are now being decriminalised is precisely because of just this, the inability to properly police them.

We forget the lessons of America’s Prohibition at our peril.