Not too long ago Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said that he "hates" the tobacco industry and promised stricter legislation, such as abolishing the 25% smoking space in public buildings.
Should these laws be passed, one of the new laws will make it mandatory that smoking sections in restaurants and other hospitality establishments be done away with.
A University of Cape Town (UCT) study, published in the South African Medical Journal, conducted an analysis of smoking policies of restaurants, how they've changed over the years and what management thought of the new, proposed laws.
Health24 also spoke to two popular franchises about giving up smoking sections in their restaurants.
Attitudes have changed
Many franchised restaurants have done away with their smoking sections out of their own volition, like Wimpy restaurants.
Jacques Cronje, Marketing Executive for Wimpy, told Health24 that they support the pending legislation. “We have already voluntarily commenced in removing smoking sections as we revamp our outlets nationwide,” added Cronje.
The Harbour House Group, which has restaurants such as Tiger’s Milk, La Parada and Harbour House in their stable, also supports the shift.
Group Operations Manager, Radley Dijkers, also told Health24 that they don’t anticipate the new regulations having a major, negative impact on their business.
“As restaurant operators, we have to be very conscious of our customers’ needs and expectations. There has been a massive shift in the public’s perception on smoking tobacco due to case studies, mainstream media, social media and because of the Department of Health’s strong regulations,” said Dijkers.
'Majority of owners support amendment'
The UCT study was put together by the director of the Economics of Tobacco Control Project (ETCP) Professor Corné van Walbeek and researcher Megan Little. The ETCP is a project of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the UCT School of Economics.
Over the years, we've seen many restaurants and hospitality establishments do away with their smoking sections of their own volition. This was also noted in the study.
In a statement issued by UCT, Little said that it seemed that over time attitudes have changed.
"There was a massive push-back from the hospitality and tobacco industries some 20 years ago when the idea of a complete ban on smoking in hospitality establishments was first floated.
"We've found the majority of restaurant owners and managers support the proposed amendment that would ban smoking in restaurants completely."
In the study, more than 750 restaurants across South Africa were interviewed and varied from franchises to independently owned establishments.
A shift for the better
The study also detailed a pattern between rural and urban establishments, which showed that restaurants with smoking sections inside tended to be in smaller towns and rural areas, but those without smoking sections or outside smoking sections were found predominantly in urban settings.
Prof Van Walbeek said that there has been a shift for the better in restaurants' smoking policies in the past decade.
"Businesses all over the world respond to consumer preferences and the hospitality industry is no different. The fact that restaurants voluntarily adjusted their smoking policies in the past decade, in some cases taking a tougher stance than the law requires, is indicative of the healthier lifestyle demands of urban restaurant patrons.
"This suggests that a significant number of South Africans are ready for the ban on restaurant smoking," said Prof Van Walbeek.
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