Dooming reports increase pressure for new smoking and cigarette laws in South Africa

Anti-tobacco and health groups called on the government to bring forward the long-awaited tobacco control and electronic distribution systems bill – or at least submit the bill to Cabinet by the end. from 2021.

This follows recent reports of a tobacco watchdog and the BBC involving the multinational tobacco group British American Tobacco (BAT) in using “shady tactics” to promote cigarette smoking in South Africa.

The Tobacco Products Control and Electronic Distribution Systems Bill is expected to regulate the use, marketing and sale of electronic cigarettes or vapers in South Africa. These products are currently operating in a legislative vacuum.

Plans are also in place to introduce restrictions on smoking in public places. Current smoking laws prohibit smoking in public places but allow designated smoking areas in bars, taverns and restaurants as long as they do not occupy more than 25% of the place. Lawmakers want to change this to a 100% ban on smoking in public places.

About one in five people smokes cigarettes, according to the South Africa Demographic and Health Survey.

“Each year, tobacco-related diseases kill around 42,100 people in South Africa. These diseases cost the South African economy 42 billion rand each year.

“It is money that the government could instead use for the socio-economic development of the nation, including poverty eradication initiatives, support for education initiatives and building urban economies and rural areas, among others, ”said Zanele Mthembu, public health and development policy consultant.

Lorraine Govender, national health promotion director for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), said tobacco is responsible for more than 16 types of cancers.

“The devastating effects of cancer in South Africa are accelerating. The death rate from cancer among men and women and all racial groups and for many types of cancers, including lung cancer, continues to rise.

The groups also called for a government investigation into BAT.

“It is clear that BAT has resorted to desperate measures to keep selling its products,” said Professor Pamela Naidoo, executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).

“It also appears that the former SARS official, Johann van Loggerenberg, certainly had a valid point to make when he drew attention to this very issue and the extent of the tobacco industry’s deception. . The more we expose what is really going on and what happened in the past, the more we can protect our people, and especially our youth. “

BAT responds

BAT rejected the BBC’s allegations, but told the broadcaster that paying sources to collect information about criminal behavior was not illegal.

“BAT categorically rejects the misstatement of its illicit anti-trade activity by the BBC and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). Allegations of this nature are not new and have been widely covered by various news media for several years, ”he said.

BAT said it has long been committed to tackling the global criminal illicit tobacco trade. This includes helping national law enforcement agencies to provide support and, in the past, intelligence on suspected illegal operators.

“These anti-illicit trade efforts aim to assist law enforcement agencies in combating the criminal trade in tobacco products with the aim of countering the severely damaging effects of illicit trade on society.

“The allegations regarding BAT’s anti-illicit business activities have been widely covered by various media for several years. “

Law won’t work as expected, tobacco maker says

The tobacco control and electronic delivery systems bill will not effectively reduce cigarette sales or smoking-related harm in the country, tobacco company Philip Morris of South Africa said.

“On one side of the debate are those who would see less harmful nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and snus, regulated in the same way as the more harmful products, namely cigarettes, ”said Rishaad Hajee, head of corporate communications at Philip. Morris South Africa.

“This approach ignores the growing body of scientific evidence that shows that not all nicotine-containing products are the same and turns a blind eye to the principle of harm reduction from tobacco.”

Hajee said that between 2015 and 2019, total cigarette sales in Japan fell 34%, associated with the introduction of heated tobacco products.

“South Africa can achieve similar success if it implements regulatory frameworks that recognize that not all tobacco products are the same,” he said.

“Sensible regulation is essential to strike the right balance. This means adopting a regulation that recognizes the role of these alternatives in helping adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes while protecting young people and non-smokers.

Read: No deaths attributed to Covid vaccines in South Africa – as latest data shows they work

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