All buildings indoors and some outdoor areas in South Africa will become 100% smoke-free if draft regulations published by the Minister of Health become law.
“100% smoke-free” is an area where smoking is completely prohibited. In terms of the law in countries that have gone smoke-free, this generally means smoking is prohibited inside all public buildings, and is also restricted in certain busy outdoor areas where people are likely to gather.
In a statement issued by the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) regarding South Africa's smoke-free plans, NCAS Executive Director Yusuf Saloojee says that,
“The regulations follow years of calls from the public for smoke-free public places, and relentless efforts by tobacco companies and some businesses to maintain indoor smoking.
The right to breathe is now set to trump the right to pollute the air.”
What the draft regulations say
According to the draft regulations:
- Smoking indoors in public buildings will be completely prohibited.
- Smoking will also be prohibited in:
- Stadiums, arenas, schools and child care facilities
- Health facilities
- Outdoor eating or drinking areas
- Places where outdoor events take place
- Covered walkways and covered parking areas
- Outdoor service areas and queues
- Beaches within 50 metres of a demarcated swimming area.
- Smoking will not be allowed within 5 to10 metres of entrances, doorways, windows and ventilation inlets.
- Demarcated smoking areas will only be allowed outdoors under specific conditions.
- It places obligations on any person in control of a public place, and on employers to protect staff.
Are these steps really necessary?
We now know that secondhand, or “environmental” smoke is a significant health hazard, and exposure to it raises risk for most diseases associated with smoking itself.
Secondhand smoke is harmful both indoors and outdoors. It is especially problematic in poorly ventilated indoor areas, but the levels of secondhand smoke in some outdoor areas can be as high as or higher than in some indoor areas, according to the NCAS.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke, and the only way to completely protect people from exposure is to introduce 100% smoke-free laws.
South Africa's current regulations reduce the public's exposure to tobacco smoke, but don't completely eliminate it.
Studies have shown that smoke-free laws cut air pollution, and improve air quality and health.
After Scotland went smoke-free, for example, research showed an 83% reduction in fine tar particles in the air in pubs, and a decrease in wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath in bar workers within two months of the law being introduced.
Lend your support to the draft regulations
The Government has invited public comment on the draft regulations (which were published 30 March 2012), by 29 June 2012.
If you'd like to help ensure that the draft regulations are not diluted or delayed on the way to becoming law, the NCAS urges sending a letter or e-mail of support to the Health Ministry:
“Let them know you are looking forward to working, shopping, eating al fresco, attending sports fixtures, taking children to playgrounds, or standing in a queue without being forced to breathe secondhand smoke.”
Contact address: The Director-General: Health, Attention: Director Health Promotion, Private Bag X828, Pretoria, 0001.
Email: WinklR@health.gov.za and bcc firstname.lastname@example.org
- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, May 2012
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