BAT slams 'silly' cigarette law

Cape Town - A cigarette firm has labelled sections of the health department's proposed amendments to regulations of the sale of cigarettes as "silly".

"What is the intent of the legislation? They've amended this legislation, looking to limit the independence of traders to communicate at the point-of-sale," British American Tobacco regulatory affairs manager Jerry Gilbert told News24.

"Small traders won't be able to sell cigarettes within one metre of anything that might attract kids. The logic seems to be that seeing cigarettes will likely lead to buying," he added.

The tobacco industry is one of the most regulated in SA and it is illegal for companies to advertise them, even though alcohol products can be sold and marketed with glamorous imaging.

Recently police commissioner Beke Cele said he supported the increase of the legal age for alcohol to be increased from 18 to 21.

Fair

"Alcohol advertisers often say their advertising does not increase alcohol consumption. Well I beg to differ. Adverts are so prominent, have catchy phrases and appear to be sexy," department of trade and industry deputy director general Zodwa Ntuli told The Cape Times.

Gilbert said that cigarettes consumption was static in the developed countries, and there has been a marginal decline in SA, but that illegal sales of cigarettes were increasing.

"They've banned visible display in Iceland, Ireland and Canada, but it has no impact on volumes. In fact, in Canada, the illegal trade makes up 40% of the market. In South Africa, this will impact on 60 000 hawkers and traders."

"We do not think it is fair because of the definition of what property may include," said Mkhululi Nonjola of Asiye Etafuleni, a Durban-based NGO focusing on spatial development and inclusive of informal traders.

He said that the organisation had submitted proposals to the health department, but had not heard any feedback. However, he conceded that it was important to limit cigarette access to children.

"There could be other ways to limit the accessibility of cigarettes to children," said Nonjola.

BAT said that it had also engage the health department.

'Silly bits'

"We've made our submissions to the department, but we haven't heard anything. We need to advise them of the unintended consequences. There's little point in having law if it's not enforced," said Gilbert.

Glibert said that BAT was not opposed to regulation in the industry, but that it had to be "sensible".

"Bad regulation doesn't become good regulation just because it's tobacco. We have no huge issues with the regulation; we just want the silly bits taken out."

The health department had not responded to News24 queries by the publication deadline.


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