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New Tobacco Acts Become Law

CANSA welcomes the new laws which offer South Africans better protection against tobacco related diseases, especially cancer.

The law now offers better protection to non-smokers,  more difficult for cigarette manufacturers to addict children and less likely that cigarettes will start fires.

Long awaited changes to South Africa’s tobacco control laws have finally come into effect. The new laws will have dramatic, important and far-ranging effects on public health and the tobacco industry’s marketing activities.

In the Government Gazette of August 21, President Zuma proclaimed that two Acts which amend the country’s tobacco control laws are now in operation. The Acts – eagerly awaited by the public – were passed by Parliament in 2007 and 2008. The Acts strengthen the existing law on smoking in public places; regulates the manufacture of tobacco products so as to make cigarettes less likely to start fires, as well as less appealing to children and less addictive; and requires new picture-based health warnings on tobacco products.

Some changes in the law with immediate effect, include: An increase in the fines for smoking or allowing smoking in a non-smoking area. The fine for the owner of a restaurant, pub, bar and workplace that breaks the smoking laws is now a maximum of R50 000, and for the individual smoker R500.

No smoking in ‘partially enclosed’ public places, such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways parking areas, etc.

Young children will be better protected from the harms of second hand smoke, like asthma, wheezing, or bronchitis:
a) Adults may not smoke in a car when a passenger under 12 years is present.

b) Smoking is not allowed in premises (including private homes) used for commercial childcare activities, or for schooling or tutoring.

c) No person under 18 may be allowed into a designated smoking area. The practice of parents taking babies into smoking areas of restaurants is outlawed.

The tobacco industry can no longer hold ‘parties’ or use ‘viral’ marketing to target young people. Although tobacco advertising was banned in 2000, the cigarette companies found other ways to promote cigarettes. It used the Internet, SMS and ‘”buzz” or “viral” marketing to get its messages to teenagers. In viral marketing, cigarette company reps go with a trunk-full of cigarettes to clubs, discos, coffee bars, college campuses and invite teens to parties, pop concerts or a major sporting event, at which they are lured into smoking.
The sale of tobacco products to and by persons under the age of 18 years is prohibited, as is the sale of confectionary or toys that resemble tobacco products.
Cigarette vending machines must sell tobacco products exclusively and cannot be used to sell other products like crisps, chocolates, etc. The vending machines can only be located in areas to which minors do not have access.
Further changes in the law will come into effect later this year, because the Ministry of Health is still finalizing regulations. These include:

1. The use of picture-based health warnings on tobacco packaging. This will provide customers with truthful and vivid information about the harms of tobacco use in a way they can understand.

2. Pollution from tobacco smoke will be further reduced by restricting smoking in certain outdoor areas. Smoking will be moved away from entrances to buildings and smoking will be restricted in sports stadia, railway platforms, bus stops, al fresco dining areas, etc. So smoking at football, cricket, rugby and other sports stadiums will be regulated.

7. The introduction of cigarettes which self-extinguish, thereby reducing the risk of fires. Cigarettes cause about 5% of all fires in South Africa.

8. The terms ‘low-tar’, ‘light’ and ‘mild’ will be prohibited. Such labels suggest that ‘light’ cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, when they are not. Smokers who switch from ‘regular’ to ‘light’ cigarettes do not reduce their intake of tar or nicotine, or the risk of disease.

9. Regulate the chemicals that can be added to tobacco products and require tobacco manufacturers to disclose the harmful additives used in the manufacturing process.

A particularly important aspect of the new law is that it will control the substances that can be added to tobacco products so as to ensure that the manufacturers do not add anything, which increases the harm or makes it easier for children to start.

Recognizing that children often find the taste of a cigarette unpleasant the cigarette manufacturers add chocolate, liquorice, sugars, menthol and other flavourings to cigarettes to hide the harsh taste and create a ‘smoother, lighter’ smoke.  This makes it easier for children to smoke.

They also use chemicals that increase nicotine delivery to smokers and this makes cigarettes more addictive and more difficult for adults to quit. Currently, aside from tobacco leaves up to 1400 other chemicals may be added to tobacco products.

Smoking remains a leading cause of premature, preventable death in South Africa.  Tobacco kills 44 000 South Africans every year (three times more than motor car accidents) and six million worldwide. Our efforts to reduce the death toll will be helped by the new legislation.

The National Council Against Smoking welcomes the new laws.

For further information please contact:

  • Dr Yussuf Saloojee (NCAS) 011 725 1514  or  076 633 5322
  • Peter Ucko (NCAS)  011 725 1514  or  082 454 9889

Background information

1. Four out of five South Africans (78% of adults) do not smoke and do not want to be exposed to tobacco smoke in public places. The public do not want to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into buildings and want to eat outdoors without tobacco smoke spoiling their enjoyment

2. The prevalence of adult smoking in South Africa has fallen by a third in the past decade, from 32% in 1995 to 22% in 2006.

3. In 2000, over 44,400 deaths were attributed to cigarette smoking in South Africa. These included deaths from heart attacks, cancer, lung disease and TB.

4. Cigarettes cause over 1400 fires and R45 million of damage to property each year in South Africa.  The likelihood that a discarded ‘stompie’ will start a fire can be greatly reduced by altering the design of cigarettes, so that it stops burning if it is not puffed upon for a minute or so.  In South Africa, cigarettes are designed to burn all the way to the filter tip once lit, so increasing the risk of a fire.  All cigarettes sold in New York State and Canada have to meet fire safety standards.

5. Research from Brazil, Canada and Australia shows that prominent warnings with colour pictures are effective in better informing people of the dangers.  In Canada, after the introduction of new warnings, one in three smokers stated that they learnt more about the dangers of smoking than they knew before. The warnings also had a greater impact on those with lower levels of education.

6. Besides tobacco, no other drug or product, including alcohol that is illegal to sell to children is sold through vending machines.

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