Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has published the long-awaited Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill.

The publishing paves the way for much stricter tobacco laws that will for the first time bring e-cigarettes into the regulatory fold.

The bill was approved by Cabinet in April and published in the Government Gazette on May 9, with a three-month public comment period.

In the preamble to the bill, the minister said strong action was required to deter people from using tobacco products, to protect nonsmokers from exposure to tobacco smoke and to encourage existing users to quit.

Electronic delivery devices were to be regulated because they contained nicotine and the long-term effects of their use was unknown, he said.

Key proposals in the bill include a ban on vending machines, the introduction of plain packaging and graphic health warnings, regulation of electronic delivery devices and much tighter control on smoking in public places.

The Tobacco, Alcohol and Gambling Advisory Advocacy and Action Group’s executive director, Peter Ucko, said the bill was long overdue.

"This bill should have been published in 2010 or 2011. Many people have died because it wasn’t," he said.

Ucko said the language of the bill needed to be tightened up to close loopholes that would enable the industry to undermine the government’s efforts. For example, the bill’s definition of a public place could potentially let owners of pubs or clubs off the hook, he said.

Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa chairman Francois van der Merwe said the bill went too far. It would render SA a "counterfeiter’s paradise" and increase the sale of illicit cigarettes.

"There is no urgency for this bill. It is a cut-and-paste job from Geneva, instead of developing regulation that can work [in SA]," Van der Merwe said.