The Gauteng Liquor Traders Association (GLTA) has given the proposed Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill (Tobacco Bill) the middle finger.
The body, which represents around 35,000 liquor traders in the province, said it believes the bill should be rejected because it was not designed for the township economy.
Public hearings were held in Gauteng last week where a majority of those in attendance rejected the bill.
According to the South African Medical Research Council, the bill seeks to do five things:
– Institute a 100% smoke-free indoor and certain outdoor places.
– -Ban the sale of cigarettes through vending machines.
– Ban the display of tobacco and electronic delivery systems at the point of sale.
– Regulate and control electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes).
– Change the current textual warnings on tobacco products packages to plain packages with graphic health warnings.
However, the GLTA said the bill was unworkable in the township economy, and would cause great harm to small businesses. It said that the affected parties have not been properly consulted.
GLTA's Thabo Thlobelo, said Parliament had a responsibility to take into consideration the views of the public, especially those who will be most affected by the proposed legislation.
He said many people were either turned away from the hearings by security guards or police, or were not afforded the opportunity to be heard.
“Only after some protests, were a handful of people allowed to go into the venue to have their say, but by this stage, many had already left. The committee (Portfolio Committee on Health) also considerably shortened the hearings, which was very concerning. This is unacceptable in a democracy,” he said.
Thlobelo explained that the bill will cause harm to small business owners that are working hard to stay in business and make enough money to feed their families.
“Millions of people in our country sell single cigarettes to help put food on the table. When people visit taverns, they buy a drink and a cigarette. The display ban means that if a taverner leaves a packet or even a single cigarette on the counter, the bill says they will face a 10 year prison sentence, which is also very unfair,” he added.
The GLTA is also concerned that the bill will boost an already massive illicit market.
GLTA spokesperson, Jongikhaya Kraai, said the tobacco ban imposed during the Covid-19 lockdown opened the market to illegal brands flooding our suburbs and townships.
The many bans in the bill, including its proposal that all packets of cigarettes be in exactly the same packaging, with the only difference being the small name of the brand, all in the same font, is going to make it very easy for illegal products to grow their market share.
He said there could be further regulations dictating distance from a door or window where a person will be allowed to smoke.
“This may work in the leafy suburbs of Sandton or Cape Town, but it cannot work in any township in our country, where doors and windows are a couple of metres away from each other,” he said.
“We always have to consider the safety of our patrons, and asking them to walk for long distances at night to find a legal place to smoke is very unsafe.”
The Portfolio Committee on Health will resume hearings on the bill in KwaZulu-Natal in January next year.