Tobacco kills almost 5-million people every year and this figure is set to double by 2030. Yet this week the tobacco industry will continue its attempts to convince Parliament not to support more stringent measures aimed at curbing smoking.
Bennett Asia of the Department of Health said there was overwhelming evidence that tobacco companies were targeting the developing world. ‘Already 60 percent of all admissions at Groote Schuur Hospital (in Cape Town) are tobacco-related,’ revealed Asia.
He said there was a need to amend the Act as the tobacco industry had exploited several loopholes. ‘We also need to strengthen the measures available to enforce the Act,’ he added.
Asia said the amendments were aimed at increasing fines for those breaking the law, further regulating smoking in public places, banning smoking at homes where there are crÃ¨ches and other businesses, regulating smoking at entrances to buildings and offices, regulating smoking at outdoor events, barring under eighteens from places where smoking is permitted and regulating manufacturing standards.
Abednego Baker of the National Institute for Occupational Health called for all workplaces and restaurants to be declared 100 percent smoke-free. He quoted from several studies showing there were still high concentrations of nicotine in restaurants and work areas adjacent to smoking areas, despite ventilation systems.
‘These (ventilation) systems basically distribute second-hand smoke through a building,’ he said.
Baker added that studies in the United States had also shown that statistically there was no significant effect on bar and restaurant revenues once smoking was banned.
Dr Yussuf Saloojee, executive director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), told Parliament’s Health portfolio committee that tobacco was a uniquely dangerous consumer product as it was the only legal product that killed the user when used exactly as the manufacturer intended.
He said that in South Africa tobacco killed one person every 20 minutes or about 30 000 people a year.
NCAS supported several proposed changes including:
· restricting smoking near entrances to public places;
· not allowing smoking in private homes used commercially for childcare or educational purposes;
· assisting employees to safely voice their concerns without fear of repercussions;
· regulating smoking at sports events.
Saloojee also called for the amendments to protect domestic workers in private homes and for smoking to be banned in cars with children.
Francois van der Merwe, Chairman of the Tobacco Institute of South Africa which represents more than 95% of the total legal tobacco industry in this country, said although industry supported regulation, it was concerned that it would be ‘over-regulated’.
He said over-regulation would allow the illegal trade in tobacco to boom.