When South Africa introduced designated smoking areas
in restaurants and bars there was vehement opposition from sections of the
hospitality industry. They argued that the public would stop eating out, restaurants
would lose revenue and even close down, and jobs would be lost. Besides, they contended,
no one would obey the law.
Non-smoking areas the norm
But two decades later, smoking in non-smoking sections
of a restaurant has become taboo. Ordinary South Africans and the hospitality
sector have policed the legislation. And despite those initial concerns, research from the University of Cape Town shows that
none of the 700 restaurants surveyed saw a drop in patrons or profits by marking
off designated smoking areas.
Of the restaurants, only 1% allowed patrons to smoke
wherever they wanted to while more than 40% followed a no-smoking policy, a
little over 40% designated an area outside for smoking, and just 11% had a
designated area for smoking inside.
No-smoking areas within restaurants and other public
spaces are the norm. The legislation, and the annual increase in the price of
cigarettes, led to a consistent decrease in the prevalence of smokers from
about 38% in 1998 to between 16% and 18% in 2012. But South Africa has not seen
a significant drop in consumption of tobacco products since 2012 – and what’s
more worrying is there’s no reduction in the prevalence of smoking among young
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 the
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
Smoke-free public spaces are a well-documented strategy
to reduce the number of cigarettes that people smoke and to move them towards stopping
completely. An Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy
Research (ATIM) study last year found that about a third of non-smokers are exposed
to second-hand smoke at restaurants.
major shift is around the regulation of e-cigarettes, which
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.
Text warnings to quit
This is set to change as the bill restricts the use of
e-cigarettes in all areas where combustible cigarettes are not allowed.
Marketing, advertising and the sponsorship of e-cigarettes will also be banned
and their sale will be restricted to adults over the age of 18.
E-cigarette use has been linked to the development of lung
diseases, and if used during pregnancy, can cause sudden infant death syndrome.
Studies have also linked e-cigarettes to an increased
heart rate and high blood pressure.
Despite claims from the tobacco industry
that e-cigarettes help smokers to stop using combustible cigarettes, evidence
shows that e-cigarettes are most likely to be used in combination with
will join 83 other
countries that regulate e-cigarettes.
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.
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.
South Africa’s smoking rates are the highest on the
continent – and trends show that these figures will increase over the next 15
years. The new tobacco control legislation should be seen as South Africa’s response
to the escalating increase in non-communicable diseases such as cancers, heart
disease and strokes. – Health-e News.
*Savera Kalideen is the Executive Director of the National Council
Against Smoking. The draft bill is out for public comment until 9 August: send
submissions to www.againstsmoking.co.za
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