Johannesburg – The proposed Tobacco Products Control Bill, currently undergoing public comment across all provinces, continues to face mixed reactions and concerns about the government’s ability to enforce the new regulations.
The Limpopo province was the latest province to sit down with the National Assembly committee on health as it conducted sessions on the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill.
Held at the Nkowankowa Community Hall in Tzaneen this past weekend, residents expressed mixed reactions to the bill, with concerns the inability of the state to enforce the existing legislation on tobacco products due to inadequate capacity.
On the one hand, some residents supported the push for stringent enforcement measures in the bill especially those seeking to curb the sale of tobacco products to young people, stressing that the health and welfare of the people must be at the centre.
At the same time, those who were against the bill highlighted how the implementation of current legislation on tobacco products had already been lacklustre, which raised cause for concern about how adding new legislation would be futile and a 'waste of time;.
It was for this reason that residents called for the enforcement of compliance before any consideration of new laws.
Chairperson of the committee, Dr Kenneth Jacobs, said many residents shared mixed reactions on the impact of the bill on the economy, especially those who rejected the bill and called for a cost-benefit analysis of the bill.
Jacobs said this was because many shared the view that the 2018 cost-benefit study used to inform the bill was outdated and did not address the existing environment within the industry.
“Small-scale tobacco traders argued that the bill will negatively affect their businesses, inadvertently force them to shut down their businesses, and raise the already high rate of unemployment in the country.”
He added: “Meanwhile, those who support the Bill argue that the industry's contribution through tax was minuscule compared to the huge financial expenditure the government makes for the treatment of the victims of tobacco in the country.”
The bid for the standardisation of packaging and labelling of tobacco products was also rejected, as the public raised concerns about how this would have a negative impact on job opportunities within the advertising sector.
Instead, an appeal was made to the government to focus its energies on addressing the increasing use of drugs and other socio-economic challenges facing South Africa.
The changes to the ‘tobacco bill’ aim to ensure that indoor public places and certain outdoor areas are 100% smoke-free, to ban the sale of cigarettes through vending machines, and to replace cigarette packaging with graphic health warnings and pictorials.
It will also seek to ban displays at points of sale and the regulation and control of electronic nicotine delivery systems and non-nicotine delivery systems.