Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s promise of much stricter legislation on tobacco will degrade tobacco consumers to third-class citizens in public places, according to the Free Market Foundation (FMF).
Motsoaledi yesterday expressed his hatred for the tobacco industry, saying that all it caused is “mayhem”.
His speech was in response to the CEO of the Tobacco, Alcohol and Gambling Advisory, Advocacy and Action Group, Peter Ucko, who complained that SA was falling behind other global leaders in tobacco control.
Motsoaledi announced his plans to change the future of tobacco legislation yesterday at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, which included stricter laws on public smoking and the unbranding of all cigarette packaging.
“Under current regulation, the fundamental right of all citizens to choose is protected. Under the proposed regulations, this right to choose is practically removed,” said Leon Louw, executive director at FMF. “The proposed tobacco regulations will, in effect, degrade consumers of tobacco products, turning them into third-class citizens in all public places.”
However, Louw said Motsoaledi’s approach to the matter was “prejudicial discrimination”.
He added: “Indeed, in a country that strives for tolerance and embraces diversity, South African public policy on tobacco matters is increasingly intolerant, high-handed and authoritarian.
“Rather than formulating sound public policy tailored to the needs of our country, the department of health and DTI appear to be ticking an internationally printed scorecard of tobacco control.”
Speaking at the launch of two World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control hubs in SA, Motsoaledi said the country was “privileged” to have the WHO as a helping hand in dealing decisively with the tobacco industry.
“We know the tobacco industry is very sneaky. They find all manners and means to increase consumption, as well as their profits,” he said. “We, therefore, must develop serious fire power to deal with their strategies and tactics. We need to be ahead of the curve; we can no longer afford to be reactive, we must be proactive and see beyond their strategies.”
However, Louw questioned whether the improvement of lives would be helped by the mass reduction of the “uptake and incidence of smoking.”