The South African government is under pressure to scrap proposed new tobacco laws meant to curb smoking, among other goals, writes Bekezela Phakathi for Business Day. Meanwhile, a survey has shown that 88% of South Africans agree that if government wants to reduce youth smoking, its priority should enforce existing regulations.
The tobacco industry continues to face a rising number of challenges in SA, including increasing cigarette trafficking and an uncertain regulatory environment.
Several lobby groups and business organisations have warned that the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill will hurt the economy and lead to job losses. The bill seeks to, among other measures, control and ban smoking in public areas, limit the display of tobacco products at point of sale, and introduce plain packaging of tobacco products.
The health department says stricter tobacco laws will reduce tobacco use and prevent millions of people dying from tobacco-related illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes. The World Health Organisation has backed stricter tobacco laws in SA saying they are consistent with the country’s obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and bring SA back to the forefront of international tobacco control best practice.
According to a survey by independent opinion research company, Victory Research, commissioned by JTI, an international tobacco company, most South Africans agree that the government should prioritise developing and investing in an effective policy to reduce the amount of illegal cigarettes in the country as opposed to introducing plain packaging.
Victory interviewed 1,114 South African adults (18 years and older) in all main local languages, from November 14-27 2018. The survey was regionally and demographically representative of SA’s population.
According to the survey, at least 88% of South Africans agree that if the government wants to reduce youth smoking, its priority should be enforcing existing regulations. A total of 92% stated that government's priority should be education programmes in the media and in schools. Most South Africans (87%) think the health minister should prioritise enforcing existing rules prohibiting the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to minors more effectively.
In addition, respondents expressed a high level of concern about plain packaging resulting in a number of major negative consequences including increasing illegal cigarette sales and counterfeit cigarettes which will benefit organised crime.