TISA recently issued a statement highlighting its “surprise and concern” at the Minister of Health’s proposed introduction of “extreme tobacco legislation”.

In the statement, TISA chairperson Francois van der Merwe explained his organisation was responding to news that SA’s Cabinet had recently approved the publication of the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill of 2017 in the Government Gazette for public comment.

Van der Merwe said that while TISA had not yet seen the proposed bill – Farmer’s Weeklywas also unable to find it online by the time of going to print – Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi had reportedly publically highlighted a list of stringent amendments to existing tobacco control legislation.

TISA said the proposed amendments included a ban on the display of tobacco products in all formal and informal retail and wholesale outlets, a ban on the sale of tobacco products through vending machines, the introduction of a complete ban on indoor smoking that includes the removal of existing closed-off designated smoking areas, severely restricting outdoor smoking areas, the introduction of plain or standardised packaging for tobacco products and the regulation of electronic cigarettes and other similar products in the same way as traditional tobacco products.

“The introduction of extreme tobacco legislation without firstly tackling the illicit trade in tobacco will serve to acutely exacerbate the already high illicit trade, which currently accounts for at least one quarter of the market and, in some channels, 50% to 100% of the market,” said Van der Merwe.

“While the illicit trade in tobacco places between 8 000 to 10 000 jobs at risk on farms alone, the financial cost to the fiscus alone is conservatively estimated to be at least R5 billion a year. This figure accounts for 10% of the estimated national budget shortfall of some R50 billion.”

Van der Merwe also said SA’s position as one of the largest illicit tobacco markets globally not only undermined the country’s credibility as an investment country of choice, it also made cheap illicit tobacco products more accessible to the youth and drove corruption because the illicit trade in cigarettes was linked to organised crime syndicates.

TISA urged government to undertake a comprehensive, transparent and multi-stakeholder Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the proposed tobacco control legislation to ensure that any final legislation was “evidence-based and does not result in unintended consequences”.

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