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Hope to gain more benefits from Tobacco Control Bill attracts majority support in Mbombela

Publish Date:

October 26, 2023

This release appears on the Parliament website here.

The majority of residents of greater Mbombela Local Municipality have indicated to the Portfolio Committee on Health that the socio-economic benefits that are currently derived from the tobacco industry, will be exceeded by the benefits that will be gained from the regulated production, sale and consumption of tobacco and electronic delivery products. The committee concluded the first of three public hearings yesterday in Mpumalanga province.

A potential in the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill (B33-2022) to improve the health levels of South Africans was identified by most participants and their support for the Bill hinged on that potential. Furthermore, they said that guaranteed sustainable productivity levels would depend on a healthy nation. A strong view was expressed that the Bill is long-overdue and its implementation must be fast-tracked.

The potential of the Bill to reduce consumption of tobacco products especially among leaners was also highlighted as a factor that attracted support for the Bill. Some parents said that many social problems they faced with teachers in schools arose from consumption of tobacco products, and to them regulations proposed by the Bill will go a long way in addressing those social problems. Some of them argued that smoking of tobacco products marked the beginning of the abuse of substances such as drugs.

Former smokers also welcomed the ban of display of tobacco products where these products are sold. They were of the view that it will reduce compulsive buying and consumption of tobacco products. Some participants also called for the use of all 11 official languages for health warnings and other information that must be displayed on the packaging of tobacco products as proposed by clause 4 of the Bill.

There was significant support for clause 2 of the Bill that proposes the designation of smoke free zones. Participants supporting this clause highlighted the benefits in protecting non-smokers, children, and pregnant women. Also, participants welcomed the ban of sale of tobacco products through vending machines as this will prevent children from accessing these products.

Some participants argued that concerns that the Bill will have a harmful effect on downstream industries such as farmers and advertising industry was a myth aimed at discouraging the government from implementing the Bill. They argued that the Bill is not a ban on the industry but it provides the necessary regulation needed to ensure reduced consumption of tobacco products. Furthermore, they argued that the ban on advertising of tobacco products has been in place for a long time and the Bill is intended to address identified shortcomings.

Some participants welcomed the regulation of electronic delivery systems as proposed by the Bill as this will also ensure that the consumers are aware of the harmful contents of those products.

Despite the popular support of the Bill, there was a sizable number of participants who rejected the Bill due to the potential negative economic impact the regulations might have on the tobacco industry. They argued that the regulations will inadvertently lead to the growth of the illicit cigarette trade. This, according to them, will reduce the opportunity of raising much-needed tax contribution from the tobacco industry.

There was also a concern from informal traders that the Bill will criminalise them and force them to close their small businesses which were currently their only source of income. Some of them argued that the implementation of the Bill will lead to the loss of around 29000 jobs at a time when the rate of unemployment in the country is rising high. The representatives of associations of farmers argued that they noted, in anticipation of the negative impact of the Bill, closure of tobacco farms.

The committee appreciated the huge turnout and the quality of inputs made by participants and assured them that it will give due consideration to the submissions made. The second leg of the Mpumalanga hearings will be held at the Gert Sibande District Municipality’s Mayors parlour in Ermelo.

The Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill (B33-2022) seeks to strengthen public health protection measures, align South African tobacco control law with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention and repeal the Tobacco Control Act, 1993 (Act No. 83 of 1993). The proposed legislative and policy changes seek to introduce the following:

  1. indoor public places and certain outdoor areas that will be designated 100 per cent smoke-free;
  2. a ban on the sale of cigarettes through vending machines;
  3. plain packaging with graphic health warnings and pictorials;
  4. a ban on display at point-of-sale; and
  5. the regulation and control of electronic nicotine delivery systems and non-nicotine delivery systems.

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