Restrictions on Tobacco in South Africa
By Scott Douglas Jacobsen
According to eNews Channel Africa, there will be further restrictions on tobacco consumption in South Africa. Aaron Motsoaledi, the South African Health Minister, published a new tobacco control bill. If this bill becomes a law, then this will restrict the means by which cigarettes and tobacco products are sold and regulated in South Africa.
Catherine Egbe was asked about the implications for tobacco control. The article reports, based on a question-and-answer with The Conversation Africa’s Health and Medicine Editor Candice Bailey, that the implications are for five areas.
One is the targets of a smoke-free policy, plain cigarette packages, regulation of e-cigarettes, “points of sale marketing,” and then the removal of the vending machines for cigarettes. Some, reportedly, as already covered within the current tobacco control law of South Africa.
The nation does not comply with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was signed by South Africa signed in 2005. One example of implementation is the smoke free public areas.
With the current laws around tobacco control, there are designated areas to permit smoking. The WHO convention states the need for 100% smoke-free public spaces in order to protect the non-smokers of the world.
There is a ban upcoming on the advertising of cigarettes at tills and for their being sold at vending machines. There are health warnings on the packages too.
“So the new law mandates standardised packaging with graphic health warnings to make tobacco packages less attractive to new smokers and to discourage old smokers from continuing to smoke,” Egbe stated, “The bill is also significant because it attempts to regulate e-cigarettes for the first time in South Africa. To date e-cigarettes have been freely marketed and sold anywhere to anyone, including children.”
With the question about the evidence for the efficacy of the planned interventions by Bailey, Egeb stated that there is a “great deal of evidence from the rest of the world,” which means a tremendous amount of evidence to support the increased set of restrictions of the sale, marketing, and distribution of tobacco in South Africa with examples internationally.
Egbe explained, “Let’s start with smoke-free policies. In countries like South Korea and the US where they are in place, research shows that they led to an overall improvement in health, particularly children’s health. Incidents of smoking-related cancers went down and there was a reduction in childhood smoking.”
More smokers wanted to quit too. If you discourage smokers to quit, then this can discourage young people from wanting or desiring to smoke in the first place. Then there are the cases of the standardized and simple packaging such as those introduced in Australia in 2012.
E-cigarettes may encourage young people to start smoking cigarettes, unfortunately. 18 studies point to no quitting rate increases of smoking. They may reduce the numbers of those who do quit smoking if they have a desire and intent to quit smoking in the first place.
“There are 83 countries that regulate e-cigarettes and about 27 that have completely banned their sale. These include Brazil, Singapore, Uruguay, Seychelles and Uganda,” Egbe explained, “The advertising, promotion and sponsorship of e-cigarettes are regulated or prohibited in 62 countries.”
The importance of the legislation comes from tobacco smoking being the single most preventable cause of death in the entire world, which makes this especially incredible and important. Much of the world is working to implement the WHO recommendations.
It seems well within the ability of South Africa to do the same. In fact, Egbe notes that smoking makes the TB and HIV outcomes far worse. However, 37% of men and 6.8% of women in South Africa use tobacco.
“Before the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, South Africa was a leader in tobacco control in Africa and across the world because of strong tobacco control legislation it had put in place. But the laws weren’t updated according to current WHO’s standards and the country now lags behind some other African countries,” Egbe opined.
The big pluses from interventions like this include the helping of people to live healthier lives, to discourage young citizens from starting smoking, protecting millions of South Africans from second.
hand smoke, and the prevention of young people being manipulated by the tobacco industry.
Egbe concluded, “Once the bill becomes law, the health minister will have to draw up several regulations to guide its implementation. These will ensure that the law is interpreted correctly and not manipulated by the tobacco industry and that the potential gains of the legislation are not watered down.”
Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.