The government’s latest proposals for restricting smoking in public places and the use of tobacco products are "unrealistic and elitist", says Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw.
The Department of Health published draft regulations to the Tobacco Products Control Act on March 30, inviting public comment until the month-end.
If passed in their existing form, they would tighten restrictions on smoking in all public areas, including covered walkways, service areas, inside bars, on beaches and in restaurants - leaving little more than private homes and cars where smoking will be legal.
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The proposed amendments also seek to prohibit smoking at workplaces, as they are deemed "public places" - a definition that Mr Louw disputes.
South African businesses had spent hundreds of millions of rand creating facilities for smoking employees and clients, which would be "rendered useless" if the regulations became law, Mr Louw told a briefing on Wednesday.
Deon van Biljon, manager of Mimmo’s restaurant in Rosebank, Johannesburg, which has a smoking section, said the regulations were bound to hurt businesses. "They’re going to kill our business. Lots of people come here to smoke. Few restaurants accommodate smokers like ours does, while keeping non-smoking clients happy," he said.
Mr Louw said the proposals were "elitist". The proposal prohibiting smoking within 10m of a doorway was impractical in townships where properties tended to be small.
The department’s spokesman, Fidel Hadebe, described Mr Louw’s statements as "selfish and dangerously ignorant".
"The use of tobacco products is one of the leading causes of noncommunicable diseases in our country and many parts of the world," Mr Hadebe said.
"Mr Louw must just visit a few hospitals to see patients who are victims of tobacco use before he continues with his irresponsible public statements."
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