South Africa proposed TOUGHER anti-tobacco bill
South Africa’s smoking rates are the highest on the continent – and trends show that these figures will increase over the next 15 years if nothing is done.
Tobacco use is one of the top-five risk factors that contribute to South Africa’s disease burden. It increases the risk of several chronic diseases including cancers, pneumonia, ischaemic heart disease and stroke. Smokers also face double the risk of developing tuberculosis.
The Draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill – which is out for public comment until 9 August – will address this problem. A number of legislative shifts will happen through this legislation. The first declares any enclosed public area 100% smoke-free, and proposes introducing some outdoor public places smoke-free too. There is good reason for this. Research shows that second-hand smoke is as harmful as smoking. When a smoker lights up in front of a non-smoker, the non-smoker develops a 30% higher chance of getting heart disease.
The second major shift is around the regulation of e-cigarettes, which have become a familiar sight in public places. The current tobacco control legislation was introduced before e-cigarettes were available so there are no laws governing their use or the advertising, marketing and sponsorship of them. This has meant that e-cigarette manufacturers have used the legislative vacuum to promote these devices and make unsubstantiated claims about the impact they have on public health, as well as their efficacy as a quit tool. They have attempted to falsely position the use of e-cigarettes as healthy, sexy and attractive, with a particular focus on getting young people to use the product.
The next shift is that packaging of tobacco products will change too. The ATIM study found that only 13% of smokers are motivated by the text warnings to quit. Change was needed to ensure that South Africans take heed of the health warnings. The draft bill introduces uniform packaging for all brands and pictorial warnings on all packages. This will remove all advertising on the package, and make it harder to ignore the health warning. Plain packaging, as this intervention is called, has resulted in a significant drop in consumption in Australia where it was introduced in 2012.
South Africa will join 83 other countries that regulate e-cigarettes.
The use of Tobacco kills nearly seven million people annually, and more than 900 000 of these people are exposed to second-hand smoke; these deaths occurring among people between ages of 25 to 40.