10 smoking laws you must know

The latest anti-smoking laws will be rigorously enforced.
The latest anti-smoking laws will be rigorously enforced.

It's time to brush up on anti-tobacco legislation. Get used to obeying the law – the penalties are no joke:

1. Smoking in a car 

You can't smoke in a car (yes, even your own) if one of the passengers is a child under 12. Environmental tobacco smoke adds to exhaust fumes and other pollutants that build up as "in-car" pollution, which in busy traffic is often worse than the air outside. Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of tobacco smoke. 

2. Smoking in a public area

The owner of a restaurant, pub, bar or workplace can be fined up to R50 000 if his/her premises breach the smoking laws. Environmental or second-hand tobacco smoke is the most serious form of indoor pollution. Second-hand smokers are at increased risk for the same health problems that hit smokers.

3. You can be fined

The fine for any smoker lighting up in a non-smoking zone is R500.

4. You can't smoke in partially enclosed public areas

Smoking in partially enclosed public places, such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways or parking areas, is illegal. Standing a few steps away from non-smokers doesn't protect them from your smoke, and standing in another room or even outside doesn't necessarily help either. Second-hand smoke has been shown to enter rooms even when smokers are standing outside. Toxins linger even after a smoker has stubbed out the cigarette and left the building.

5. You can't smoke on premises used for commercial childcare activities

Smoking on premises that are used for commercial childcare activities or for schooling or tutoring – and that includes private homes, e.g. those running crèches, is illegal. 

6. No advertising

The tobacco industry is not allowed to advertise; they are also not allowed hold parties or use viral marketing to target youth.

7. Not for sale to under 18s

You can't buy or sell tobacco products if you're under 18.

8. Sweets and toys that look like tobacco products are banned

Those sugar cigarettes in cute just-like-the-grownups packaging that many of us played with as kids are a rapidly fading memory. Children learn by example.

9. No more than 25% of a public place can be designated as a smoking area

No more than 25% of a public space (building or transport e.g. train) can be designated a smoking area. That area needs to be physically isolated from the rest of the interior, i.e. it needs to be enclosed and the smoky air vented to the outside.

However, in 2018 this may change as Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is planning to clamp down on the tobacco industry. He said, "The legislation that's in the pipeline, it is already in the system of government [sic]. We are going to abolish the 25% smoking space in public buildings. I don't want to blame the legislators who gave the 25%; they were putting a foot in the door to open it a little bit. That 25% was a compromise, so now that we have it, we want more. We are doing away with that 25%."

10. Stricter laws to come

Packaging of cigarettes may eventually carry graphic images to deter people from smoking. Initially, however, legislation may enforce plain packaging – boxes will only carry the brand name and warning labels – to curb the tobacco industry from making their products appear more appealing. 

E-cigarettes and other nicotine-dispensing gadgets will be included in the legislation, as well as abolishing all cigarette vending machines.  

It is currently illegal to smoke within 10m from public entrances but Dr Motsoaledi has stressed that "we also need to stop this behaviour of just getting out of a building and smoking right there".

Everyone has the right to a smoke-free environment

According to CANSA, everyone has the right to a smoke-free environment. If someone breaks the law, here's what you can do:

  • Know your rights and speak to the owner, manager or supervisor.
  • If they refuse to help or allow it to continue, you are within your rights to report this to the authorities.
  • Take a photograph (make sure you the venue is clearly identifiable) and send it to the local authority's environmental health officer.
  • The environmental health officer has the responsibility and authority to act under the Criminal Offences Act, and enforce penalties against the individual. 

Image credit: iStock

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