Stringent new law kicks butts

Shaun Gillham

THE fresh winds of change may soon blow through hundreds of bars and taverns across the Eastern Cape if tough new laws that propose a total ban on smoking in public places are passed.

Smokers and bar owners have expressed unbridled outrage at the proposed new tobacco laws that will do away with segregated smoking areas in buildings – thus totally banning smoking inside public areas and venues – and prohibit smoking within five metres of the entrances to these areas.

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), backing the National Department of Health’s anti-smoking drive – is confident that the strict new laws will be tabled towards implementation.

The draft laws were gazetted last year for public debate, which was overwhelmingly in favour of change. It is not clear at this stage when the matter will be tabled for further consideration in parliament.

Some fear that the ban will impact negatively on the economy and are outraged because of resources already spent on building segregated smoking areas.

“If these laws come into force and if they are policed, I may have to close my doors. The vast majority of my patrons smoke and unless they stand in the middle of the road, there will be nowhere for them to smoke outside. The government should also then consider compensation for any losses as a result of the laws,” the owner of Mulligans pub and bar in South End, Ken Claasen said.

Tim Stone, owner of the Southender bar in South End, confirmed that he had already banned smoking indoors and had an outside smoking area. “The patrons have become used to it. Smokers should be catered for,” he said.

Southender patron Eddie Fraser said he believed venues would suffer economically if a full ban was implemented.

“What I wonder, is exactly how this will be policed?” he asked.

NCAS executive director Dr Yusuf Saloojee said the proposed new laws were in the interests of “greater public health”.

Saloojee said countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Ireland had successfully passed stiffer laws.

“In these cases, the new laws have had no impact on the businesses,” Saloojee said, adding that the earlier tobacco laws that compelled establishment owners to have separate smoking areas were implemented 10 years ago.

“They have had 10 years to recover their costs.”

Smoker Treg Genis, who owns an ice business that distributes to scores of bars and other outlets around the city, said: “There are already some bars, such as Barneys on the beachfront and The Island at Pine lodge, that ban smoking indoors, and, when it is cold, it is extremely uncomfortable for people to smoke outside.”

Former DNE nightclub co-owner and top Bay DJ, Dave Mogowan said: “On a good night, you can have 300 people in the club. Can you imagine hundreds of people constantly going outside for a smoke? What about the neighbouring businesses, how will this affect them?

“How will they police this and specifically in the townships where they have hundreds of shebeens?”

New Brighton, Port Elizabethbased Patido’s Pub and Grub owner Pat Manona said he was aware of the proposed legislation and he and other tavern owners totally “rejected” the laws: “Booze and smoking go together.”

Dagwoods bar and eatery floor manager Lischa Marais said she had already experienced patrons arriving at Dagwoods after being told they could not smoke at other venues.

In East London, pub and club managers were equally disgruntled about the possible new smoking restrictions.

Numbers Dance Club manager Daryn Mildenhall said the popular club had spent “in excess of R300 000” installing three designated smoking areas three years ago and he would be “mortified” if these would have to be dismantled.

Mildenhall said the dance club would be forced to employ more staff to enforce the ban, should it come into effect.

Dr Jekyll pub and restaurant manager Niven Jagemann said patrons at the Vincent pub would “stay at home and sulk” should the ban come into law.

Reacting to the proposed laws, the outraged Township Liquor Industry Association (Tolia) has also “rejected the minister of health’s attempts to push through anti-smoking regulations” saying that the regulations are “completely unrealistic”.

However, there were those who supported the proposed new laws.

This is a version of an article that appeared in
the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, August 10, 2013.

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