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Five key measures in the new Tobacco Control Bill  – and why we need them

Publish Date:

August 7, 2023

The Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill is at last in Parliament. Health organisations forming part of Protect our Next are hopeful that it will become law in 2023.  This Bill will replace existing legislation, which falls short of provisions to regulate new-generation products such as e-cigarettes, amongst other critical measures. The proposed regulations will extend to e-cigarettes (also called vapes) and water pipes, (also called hubbly bubblies), bringing them into the regulatory framework for tobacco control in South Africa.

The new measures outlined below are designed to reduce South Africa’s prevalence of tobacco use, which impact our health, our youth, our environment, our economy and our future. Each measure is strongly supported by research, including the Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in South Africa (GATS-SA).


The Bill requires 100% smoke-free indoor, and certain outdoor, public places, as well as workplaces and public transport.   Smoking or the use of e-cigarettes ventilation inlets and doorways close to these enclosed public spaces, workplaces or conveyances will also be prohibited. Smoking in enclosed common areas of multi-unit residences and other areas where it interferes with the enjoyment of people lawfully on the premises is prohibited, as is smoking in healthcare facilities and in private dwellings used for any commercial childcare activities, child stay, schooling, tutoring, domestic employment or otherwise as a workplace. Smoking in a car when a child under 18 years or a non-smoker is in the vehicle will be illegal.

Second-hand smoke is a major health risk, and GATS-SA shows just how many South Africans are exposed. About 11% are exposed to second-hand smoke at work (7% of these people are non-smokers) and 18% at home (9.6% are non-smokers). Women are mostly exposed at home, while very few have the power to make their homes smoke-free.

An alarming 74.4% of people are exposed at bars, tavern, pubs, shebeens or night clubs, 10.8% at restaurants and 5.8% at government buildings, which are supposed to be smoke-free. About 4% are exposed at healthcare facilities. A concerningly high percentage of non-smokers are exposed at educational institutions with 20% of people exposed in schools.

There is a strong awareness of the dangers of smoking among South Africans, with nine out of 10 South Africans believing that smoking or breathing other people’s smoke can cause serious illnesses. The majority support these smoke-free measures.


Emerging and re-emerging products including e-cigarettes and hookah are mostly targeted at younger age groups and are either currently unregulated or inadequately regulated.  The highest percentage usage of e-cigarettes is in the age 15-24 category, creating a new generation dangerously addicted to nicotine. 

Alarmingly, GATS-SA shows 21% of users have been using these products for more than two years, indicated that they are not being used as a cessation aid, but rather have become a new addiction. When you quit tobacco, you should be free from nicotine as well.

The industry has certainly flip-flopped on whether these products are cessation aids or not to suit their campaign against regulation. When the Department of Health tried to regulate imports, industry clearly stated in court documents that these products will not serve as cessation aids, and will not be marketed as such. Now, with regulation pending, the industry is again positioning these products as smoking cessation aids. If these products are going to be presented as cessation aids, they should be certified by South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAPHRA), passing through the normal tests and procedures for any medication authorized to be marketed and used as such in South Africa.

With evidence continuing to emerge on the dangers of these products, it is essential to regulate their usage and stem the tide of youth addiction to nicotine.


The bill requires standardised packaging and labelling and graphic health warnings for tobacco products and electronic delivery systems. For example, it prescribes the use of a uniform plain colour and texture for the packaging and only relevant information should be included on the packaging. The bill makes it a requirement for all packaging for tobacco products and the electronic delivery systems to include key messages related to health warnings, the social and economic harmful effects of these products, outlining the benefits of stopping the use of these products. Graphic pictures showing the health consequences of using these products will also be included on the packs. 

Only less than 40% of smokers said seeing current health warnings on cigarette packs make them think of quitting. While 67% of smokers say textual health warnings would not stop them from smoking, 58% say graphic health warnings, showing the health consequences of tobacco use, would encourage them to quit.  When it comes to hookah, most hookah smokers do not even see the packs. Less than half say they noticed health warnings, and 19% said they think of quitting based on current packs. Results were similar for smokeless tobacco.

These data show that current health warnings on tobacco products are not effective, and support that the plain packaging and graphic warning policy will have an impact and does have public support. Ultimately, the Minister of Health will adopt regulations to detail the permissible appearance of the packaging and what kind of information may be included on it.


The bill seeks to regulate the advertising and marketingof tobacco products and electronic delivery systems. Advertising and promoting any of these products will be prohibited. This includes television or radio adverts, bill boards, giving samples for free, sending electronic communication to market the product and competitions. 

Retailers would not be allowed to display any of these products and can only make them available upon request from a person over the age of 18. 

Younger people are the biggest noticers of tobacco promotion, and when it comes to e-cigarettes, regulation of advertising is critical. We have all seen the prominent, brightly coloured displays of e-cigarettes in mall, kiosks and stores. You do not see cigarettes displayed like this because this ban on the advertisement of cigarettes have been in place in South Africa for over two decades. Because the current law does not cover e-cigarettes, there has been a calculated move to exploit this legislative vacuum and the public by e-cigarette manufacturers and marketers of these products.


The statistics on tobacco use initiation call for sober reflection.  GATS-SA shows that almost 75% start smoking before they can really make the distinction between what is addiction and what is not. About 18% start before they are 15, and 43% by 16.

 Tobacco products are dangerous and should not be accessed by those who are minors. Vending machines further serve as display advertising, that all ages can access.  Tobacco products should not be associated with chips and candies.

Ultimately, the Bill is a carefully considered piece of legislation that closes loopholes and brings South Africa up to date with global standards. Passing the bill will better protect the health of both smokers and non-smokers and reduce our exposure to dangerous and addictive substances like nicotine. It is time for South Africa to once again assert her pride of place as a nation that puts the health of her people first.

Authored by Protect Our Next Health Organisations – The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF) and The Africa Centre For Tobacco Industry Monitoring And Policy Research (ATIM).


About Protect our Next

Health organisations and allies forming part of the #protectournext partnership include the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF) and The Africa Centre For Tobacco Industry Monitoring And Policy Research (ATIM). They are joined by public health and social justice advocates including COSATU, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA), the South African Medical Association (SAMA) and the Tobacco Control Alliance.  Together, these organisations are steadfast in driving awareness of the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes, while campaigning for the Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill to be passed.

About the Bill:

The Tobacco Control Bill requires that any enclosed public area is 100% smoke-free, and will make certain outdoor public places smoke-free too, providing protection for many South Africans who are often involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke. It removes the requirement to provide for smoking areas in all enclosed public places, workplaces and on public conveyances and applies the 100% smoking ban to common areas of multi-unit residences. It further prohibits smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in private dwellings used for commercial child care or education, and in cars carrying children under 18, rather than under 12.

The Bill introduces uniform plain packaging for all brands and pictorial warnings on all packages. Advertising of tobacco products, heated tobacco and electronic cigarettes at points of sale (tills) and the sale of cigarettes through vending machines will be prohibited. 


Prof. Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) and the Head of the School of Health Systems and Public Health at the University of Pretoria

Sharon Nyatsanza (PhD), Deputy Director, National Council Against Smoking (NCAS)

Dr Catherine Egbe, Specialist Scientist: Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council

Sanele Zulu, Convenor: South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum

Zanele Mthembu, Public Health Policy and Development Consultant

Lorraine Govender, National Manager, Health Promotion, CANSA


Tamaryn Brown

Connect Media for CART Agency

084 3510560 /

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