Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla has revealed South Africa is finalising a Bill that will implement a 100% prohibition of smoking in public areas. The prohibition is currently sitting on 25%.
Speaking at the health department’s virtual meeting with scientists and civil society on tobacco control in South Africa marking World No Tobacco Day on Sunday, Phaahla said the aim of the meeting was to remind smokers, young people and non-smokers about the risks of tobacco products under the theme “Protecting youth from industry manipulation”.
This comes as South Africa has banned the sale of tobacco products amid the coronavirus pandemic that has seen 30,967 confirmed cases, with 643 deaths.
“The tobacco ban remains the right one. Of the 8 million deaths a year worldwide, 1.2 million of those are passive smokers,” said Phaahla.
South Africa has, however, seen a decline from 40,000 deaths to about 20,000 in the past few years, said Phaahla.
“This led to a serious decline in lung cancer deaths between 1992 and 2012. Tobacco is a risk factor in coronary heart disease leading to what is commonly known as heart attacks. It causes several types of cancers, among them lung cancer,” he said.
The country is moving to identify areas that need strengthening in terms of legislation. This includes a Bill that is being finalised that will prohibit smoking in public areas. The Bill will also target e-cigarettes and related products so they can be regulated.
“We’re finalising the Tobacco Control Bill to close the gap to protect the public from harmful effects of tobacco use. We continue to identify areas that need strengthening in terms of legislation. We want to change the 25% allowed smoking in public areas to 100% prohibition of smoking in public areas. The regulation of the electronic delivery systems and related products, we want to bring them into the fold so that they can also be controlled,” said Phaahla.
Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Free State have been flagged as the provinces with high rates of smokers, followed by Eastern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal. Men smoke the most in all provinces, though Professor Sibusiso Sifunda from the Human Science and Research Council said the country has seen an increase in female smokers in the past few years.
Overall, the Northern Cape and Western Cape have the highest rate of smokers, with men smoking more than women in the provinces. Limpopo has the smallest percentage of smokers.