Tough puffing laws loom

Wilma Stassen

TOBACCO legislation in South Africa is constantly changing, and ignorant smokers may find themselves on the wrong side of the law with fines of up to R100000. What’s more, Nelson Mandela Bay has a municipal complaints phone line that takes tobacco complaints so errant puffers may be reported at any time.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who has been driving South Africa’s stricter smoking regulations, said plain packaging will be introduced on cigarette boxes in the future. The idea is to strip tobacco products of any “glamour” or marketing that might be attached to brand names.

Experts believe this move will stop young people from taking up the habit in the first place, and it has already been legislated in Australia, with New Zealand to follow suit.

Although plain packaging in South Africa is still several years away, there are other recent changes to the Tobacco Control Act, or changes in the pipeline, that can land a perpetrator with a fine of up to R100000. “This legislation works so well, because people want it to work,” National Council Against Smoking’s Peter Ucko said.

One controversial aspect is that the person in control of a public place is responsible for enforcing the smoking ban. At a restaurant, the manager or owner should ensure the law is enforced. At a cricket match, the managers or organisers of the event would have to train security and other staff to ensure people only smoke in designated areas.

If the law is not enforced, any member of the public can lay a complaint by contacting the municipal health department, or open a docket at the police station.

Once a police docket has been opened, or a complaint has been laid and investigated, the offending party (be it a restaurant owner or events manager) will receive an official warning, and in other instances a fine.

According to Ucko, many fines have been issued to businesses and venues that have failed to enforce the law, and admission of guilt fines have been paid.

The tobacco complaint line for Nelson Mandela Bay is 0800-205-050.

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