13 August 2007
South Africa aims to discourage smoking among its youth by passing the Tobacco Product Amendment Bill, which increases the age restriction for selling of tobacco from 16 to 18 years of age.
“This means that all minors will no longer be allowed in a designated smoking area,” said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
The Bill is currently in the National Council of Provinces, and once approved, will be submitted to President Thabo Mbeki for endorsement before it becomes law.
According to Tshabalala-Msimang, the abuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs disrupts families, is a cause of human suffering and also negatively impacts on the country’s economy.
“Ill health affects the productivity of every sector of the industry, and about 2.5-million working days are lost annually in this country from diseases related to tobacco products of any form being used,” she said.
“Furthermore, low-income households spend about 4% of their total expenditure on cigarettes.”
“The Bill also increases the penalties for the owner of a public place or employer who fails to ensure that there is no smoking in a smoke-free area, from R200 to a minimum of R20 000,” Tshabalala-Msimang said.
In terms of the Bill, the penalty for selling tobacco products to a minor and failure to comply with the regulations on vending machines would be increased from R10 000 to a minimum of R100 000.
The penalty for advertising and giving away free cigarettes would increase from R200 000 to a minimum of R1-million.
Tshabalala-Msimang said the proposed penalties in the Bill were comparable to those of other Acts, explaining that the fine for selling liquor to a person under 18 is R1-million or five years in prison.
Smoking ‘not cool’
Tshabalala-Msimang added one had to ensure that advertisers and marketers did not target or recruit youngsters by suggesting that smoking is cool, or is associated with success.
Tshabalala-Msimang also said that the government and communities should be “vigilant” to protect children.
She said the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey of 2002 revealed that one in every five learners attempt suicide because of mental health problems caused by, among other things, substance abuse.
“Over 10% of learners smoke tobacco, of which 6.2% of them first tried smoking before reaching the age of 10 years,” Tshabalala-Msimang said.
The National Cancer Registry estimates that tobacco use is responsible for about 8% of all deaths in South Africa.