Township tavern and shebeen owners are up in arms at government’s plan to introduce the new tobacco control Bill, which they believe is “impossible to implement or enforce in a township environment”.
The opportunity for public comment and stakeholder submissions on the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, which was published in May, closes today.
Yesterday’s Soweto meeting was attended by industry leaders representing about 20 000 restaurant, taverns and small business traders who have submitted their objections to the Bill, calling on government to scrap it.
Entrepreneurs said the Bill was “the last thing struggling townships need” as it was extremely stringent and they were concerned about the damage it might cause to making an “honest living to feed our families”.
The Bill proposes to:
- Control smoking distance through a total ban of smoking in outdoor public areas.
- Regulate the sale and advertising of tobacco products and electronic devices (e-cigarettes).
- Regulate the packaging and appearance of tobacco products and electronic-delivery systems.
To support their cause, the Gauteng Liquor Forum and the National Tourism Hospitality Association surveyed 800 tavern and small business owners employing more than 2 000 people in three provinces about how they felt about the proposed new laws.
Eighty-five percent of township business owners surveyed said they opposed the proposed ban on public smoking, while 92% said the new law would criminalise small business.
“The 10m ban is completely impractical. Can you imagine finding such a place in Alexandra or Khayelitsha?
“Even two metres is ridiculous because you will be right in front of your neighbour’s door,” said Fanny Mokoena, president of the Gauteng Liquor Forum and the National Tourism Hospitality Association.
“In Alexandra, a smoker will have to walk outside the township to find a legal place to smoke a legal product. The new law will, without a doubt, put the lives of our patrons at risk,” he said.
“Our customers could get raped, mugged or even killed walking to find a place where it is legal to smoke. Also, you cannot take your drink outside. So, a customer will have to leave the drink behind – at risk of it being spiked with a drug.
“Unfortunately, with the best intentions, our government wants to apply First World laws in a township environment – something that’s completely unworkable. There is no place in any township in South Africa where it will be legal to smoke.”
Those who break the law may face hefty penalties.
Township businesses’ demands
- If the Bill is passed, taverns, spaza shops and restaurant owners could face up to one year in prison for not preventing a person from smoking 10m away from a door, window or walkway. The smoker will also face a year in prison. The meeting demanded that government:
- Scrap the Bill and enforce the current Act, which already considers the rights of all South Africans.
- Exempt township businesses from the new law – if it cannot be abolished.
- Consult all stakeholders before introduction of the law.
- Consider education as an alternative to meeting its objective for a healthy nation.