Updated 06 March 2018

Motsoaledi expected to announce tough anti-smoking measures

South Africa has lagged behind in controlling tobacco products, which kill an estimated seven million people every year.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is expected to announce new measures against smoking, including a ban on smoking in all public places, plain cigarette packages and gory pictorial health warnings on packs.

More than 2 000 tobacco control experts from 100 countries are currently in Cape Town for the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, the first time that the global conference is being held in Africa.

No regulations yet

The conference will also be opened by World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Michael Bloomberg, billionaire former mayor of New York who has donated more than $1-billion to address the health harms of tobacco.

South Africa, once a leader in tobacco control, has lagged behind in controlling tobacco products, which kill an estimated seven million people every year.

Two years ago, Motsoaledi said that he was considering laws to make all public spaces smoke-free, banning branding from tobacco packages and forcing manufacturers to put pictures of people suffering from smoking-related diseases on their packs.

No regulations have been forthcoming yet, but the Department of Health said late last year that it would be putting forward proposals to Cabinet early this year. The National Council Against Smoking confirmed last November that it had been consulted about draft regulations. Cabinet met last week and it is understood that Motsoaledi outlined the regulations there.

Retail price more than doubled

South Africa was one of the first developing countries to impose a 50% excise tax on the price of cigarettes in 1994 and banned tobacco advertising in 2001.

Professor Corne van Walbeek, director of the Economics of Tobacco Control Project at the University of Cape Town, said that between 1994, when South Africa announced the excise tax, and 2004 the retail price of cigarettes had more than doubled.

In 1994, almost one-third of people (31%) smoked and this dropped to less than a quarter (24%) by 2004.

But Prof Van Walbeek warned, “Since 2004 South Africa’s tobacco control strategy has largely fizzled out. The 1990s passion of using excise tax as a means to reduce smoking has disappeared.”

Between 2004 and 2014, smoking decreased by 4% to 20%, but the number of smokers has remained at around 7,5 million people because of population increases. – Health-e.

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