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80% Public want Clean Air Unpolluted by Tobacco Smoke

80%  SA public want smoke-free public venues26 July 2012 – National Council Against Smoking (NCAS): New research presented yesterday shows that there is overwhelming public support for making indoor public places 100% smoke free and that the existing laws were not protecting non-smokers adequately. Other research found that the 1999 laws restricting smoking did not affect restaurant revenues. If anything the laws resulted in a slight increase in business for restaurants.

Six of the country’s leading public health organizations yesterday welcomed the draft laws designed to protect the public from being exposed, against their will, to the harmful poisons in tobacco smoke.

At a media briefing yesterday, the SA Medical Association (SAMA), Junior Doctors Association of SA (JUDASA), Cancer Association of SA (CANSA), Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA (HSFSA), Public Health Association of SA (PHASA) and National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) fully supported the changes to the current laws proposed by the Ministry of Health.

They described the new regulations as fair, constitutional, based on solid scientific evidence and necessary to protect the health of the public.  People who have chosen not to smoke are being exposed to the dangers of smoking every time they enter a place where smoking has occurred.

Research presented by Professor Lekan Ayo-Yusuf of the University of Pretoria found that the current laws were not adequately protecting nonsmokers, because measures taken to prevent smoke drifting from the smoking areas into the non-smoking areas were not effective.  A study of 8 randomly selected restaurants in Pretoria showed that the air in non-smoking areas contained, on average, twelve times more smoke particles than the World Health Organization (WHO) states is healthy. No restaurant met the WHO standard.

Professor Ayo-Yusuf also reported that a national survey of adult South Africans in 2010 found that over 80% of the public felt it was important that workplaces, cafés and restaurants should be 100% smoke-free. There was strong support for such rules even from smokers. For instance 72% of smokers wanted workplaces to be smoke-free and 65% wanted to eat in 100% smoke-free restaurants.

The research shows very clearly that smokers and non-smokers support the new regulations and that the only opponents of the new regulations are the tobacco industry and its affiliates.

Prof Corne van Walbeek of the economics department of the University of Cape Town reported that research he and his colleagues conducted found no evidence that restaurant turnover had decreased after the introduction of clean air legislation in July 2001.  A survey of restaurant owners three years after the law came into effect revealed that 60% of them reported that the law had not affected their sales, 19% reported a decrease in sales and 20% reported that their sales had increased. This finding was supported by a second study which looked at VAT revenues from restaurants from 1995 to 2003 and found that restaurant turnover had not decreased because of the law.  If anything, there was a small increase in restaurant turnover.

Professor van Walbeek said that claims by some in the hospitality industry that the 2001 regulation was going to hurt business were exaggerated and not supported by the evidence.  He added that research from other countries had come to the same conclusion.

Dr Flavia Senkubuge, a public health specialist summarized the scientific evidence on the health effects of secondhand smoke which showed that it increased the risk of nonsmokers dying from lung cancer and heart disease, and amongst infants, of cot deaths.  The immediate effects included triggering an asthma attack in both children and adults.  She said the effects of being exposed both indoors and outdoors were cumulative – it adds together to increase the harm.

SAMA president, Professor Mac Lukhele said that the new regulations were consistent with the SAMA mission of ‘uniting doctors for the health of the nation’ and that the Association had recommended over 50 years ago that laws be introduced to protect non-smokers’ health.

Dr Yussuf Saloojee of the NCAS said that in 1998 the same attacks were mounted by many of the same people, using the same arguments against the country’s tobacco control laws as are being used now. The laws turned out to be very effective and are widely observed. He said critics were wrong then as they are wrong now.

All the health organizations congratulated Minister of Health and his Department on the regulations. All the evidence points to the benefits of the new regulations and it was in the public interest for the regulations to become law as soon as possible.

Queries National Council Against Smoking

  • Dr Yussuf Saloojee, NCAS, on 011 725 1514, or 076 633 5322
  • Prof Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, UP, on 083 442 1970
  • Prof Corne van Walbeek, UCT on 072 827 8213
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