South Africa’s Cabinet has approved the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, which provides for a ban on smoking at outdoor public places. Business Day reports that the aim of the legislation is to cut demand by prohibiting point-of-sale advertising by requiring retailers to keep tobacco out of sight. It is also intended to introduce plain packaging, with graphic health warnings.
The proposed new measures have created uncertainty in the tobacco industry – when they were mooted in 2015, British American Tobacco SA is said to have threatened to shut its plant. But, the report says, a recent study found that most restaurant owners support a full ban on smoking in their establishments.
The study, done by the University of Cape Town canvassed views in the restaurant industry. Its results show restaurants were voluntarily instituting complete bans on smoking on their premises. This is despite current regulations reflecting a more lenient stance on smoking. Megan Little, a researcher in the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, School of Economics, University of Cape Town and Professor Corné van Walbeek, director of the project, led the study.
The report says more than 750 restaurant owners across the country were interviewed for the study. There was significant pushback from the hospitality and tobacco industries about 20 years ago when the idea of a complete ban on smoking in establishments was mooted, but attitudes had softened in recent times, Little said. “We found that the majority of restaurant owners and managers support the proposed amendment that would ban smoking in restaurants completely,” said Little.
According to the study, 45% of restaurants have no smoking areas at all.
There was a distinction in preference on the issue between rural and urban provinces.
Restaurants with inside smoking areas tended to be in small towns and rural provinces. No-smoking restaurants, or restaurants with outside smoking areas, were prevalent in provinces with large urban populations. Regional variances in the study may be indicative of differing consumer lifestyle choices between rural and urban South Africa.
The study found that 23% of restaurants had changed their smoking policies in the past 10 years, with most relocating smoking sections outside or banning smoking completely. There was little evidence of customer disapproval.
Background: The South African Minister of Health announced in 2016 that he intends to introduce tobacco control legislation that will prohibit smoking in restaurants. This will substantially strengthen the Tobacco Products Control Act (1993, as amended), which currently allows restaurants to have a dedicated, enclosed indoor smoking area.
Objectives: To analyse current smoking policies of restaurants, whether and how these policies have changed over the past decade, and restaurateurs’ attitudes to the proposed legislative changes.
Methods: From a population of nearly 12 000 restaurants, derived from four websites, we sampled 2 000 restaurants, stratifying by province and type (independent v. chain) and disproportionately sampling small strata to ensure meaningful analysis. We successfully surveyed 741 restaurants, mostly by phone. We also surveyed 60 franchisors from a population of 82 franchisors.
Results: Of the restaurants sampled, 44% were 100% smoke-free, 44% had smoking sections outside, 11% had smoking sections inside, and 1% allowed smoking anywhere. Smoking areas were more common in independent restaurants (62%) than franchised restaurants (43%). Of the restaurants with a smoking section, 33% reported that the smoking sections were busier than the non-smoking sections. Twenty-three percent of restaurants had made changes to their smoking policies in the past 10 years, mostly removing or reducing the size of the smoking sections. Customer requests (39%), compliance with the law (35%) and cost and revenue pressures (14%) were the main reasons for changing smoking policies. Of the restaurant respondents 91% supported the current legislation, while 63% supported the proposed legislative changes; 68% of respondents who were aware of the proposed legislation supported it, compared with 58% of respondents who were not aware of the proposed legislation.
Conclusions: In contrast to the vehement opposition to the 1999 legislation, which resulted in restaurants going partially smoke-free in 2001, there was limited opposition from restaurants to the proposed legislative changes that would make restaurants 100% smoke-free. Support for the proposed legislation will probably increase as the restaurant industry and the public are made more aware of the proposed legislative changes, although public opinion is vulnerable to tobacco industry-led campaigns.
M Little, C van Walbeek