Press release: Next step to a nanny state

Media release from the Free Market Foundation
13 June 2012

Next step to a nanny state: tougher anti-smoking laws

By the end of June, the Minister of Health may succeed in installing new unrealistic anti-smoking regulations that will prevent anyone from smoking in any building, outdoor venue, public or private beach, outdoor drinking or eating area, park, walkway, parking area or within ten metres of any doorway or window. It will include the abolishment of existing designated smoking rooms.

The Free Market Foundation, at a media briefing in Johannesburg today, strongly opposed the regulations which have been drafted by the Department of Health, because if implemented, they will be in gross violation of people’s right to freedom, as well as being unenforceable. Governments and their officials are not elected and appointed in order to instruct people how to live their lives and what habits they should or should not adopt. This further intrusion into the lives of smokers shows a flagrant disregard for their right to choose how to live their lives and a warning to all of us that our own freedoms are at risk.

“It’s one more step on the road to a nanny state, but unfortunately one which can’t even deliver on the fundamentals. If only the Department of Health would expend as much energy on getting the basics of its mandate right, such as ensuring access to sufficient clean properly staffed public hospitals,” said Leon Louw, Executive Director at the Free Market Foundation.

The Department published the proposed regulations in terms of the Tobacco Products Control Act, 1993, in the Government Gazette on 30 March 2012 and set the deadline for public comments as the end of June. Because they are only regulations, they will not require Parliamentary oversight or the consideration of the Portfolio Committee on Health, but can simply be adopted by the Department.

“The most obvious problem with the new laws is that it is unconstitutional to infringe on the public’s right to freedom. The second issue is that it is impossible to enforce these laws. If we install laws with no reasonable way to enforce them, it illustrates and promotes a society that disrespects law.

“It is going to be impossible to stop people from smoking ten metres from any doorway or window. Imagine the practicalities of implementation in Soweto or Khayelitsha? Ten metres will take you to the front of the next door, and so forth. A smoker will have to walk to the outskirts of the township to smoke. And think of the impact on business productivity as people have to walk even further away from their place of employment to have a cigarette?”

The regulations include bans on smoking in stadiums. “Can you imagine trying to enforce the ban at Soccer City in Soweto during a Chiefs Pirates derby match? It’s just not going to happen!”

Louw is concerned that the new regulations further undermine property owners’ rights to control their own environment, and ply their trade. The new laws will have a substantial impact on private property owners, especially restaurants, bars, taverns and other public establishments that have invested substantially in creating closed in smoking areas modified with ventilating fans and other sophisticated and costly equipment. These investments were made based on the existing regulations, and will need to be dismantled, at great cost and with negative consequences for the success of those businesses as going concerns.

“The nature of the hospitality business is that the bulk of them are small and medium sized businesses, and so do not necessarily have the resources to absorb the cost and revenue impact of these regulations. We know that SMEs are a vital engine for growth and job creation in our stagnant economy; do we really want to add to the existing challenges these businesses are facing, when in fact the government should be doing everything it can to support them. I think not,” says Louw.

The deadline for comment is 29 June.

“We are calling on everyone who believes they would be negatively impacted by the regulations, or is concerned about the absurd consequences or unworkable nature of the proposed regulations to send their comments to the Director-General of the Department of Health, Private Bag X828, Pretoria, 0001 for the attention of the Director: Health Promotion.”


If you would like further comment or a copy of the proposed regulations please contact:

Sandra Sowray, FTI Consulting, 011 214 2422 / 079 167 6863 /

Chloe Webb, FTI Consulting, 011 214 2400 /

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