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Tuesday Jun 19, 2012

Smokers' Last Chance to Butt In

South Africans have until the end of the month to comment on draft regulations which could see smoking banned in all public areas including covered walkways, service areas, inside bars, on public or private beaches and in restaurants.

The government is planning regulations that will prevent people from smoking in public

Even smoking at workplaces may be prohibited.

Meanwhile, an independent economic policy research and education organisation has slammed the government's latest proposals for restricting smoking in public places.

The Free Market Foundation (FMF) has called on "everyone who believes they would be negatively impacted by the regulations" to send their comments to the health department.

The department published draft amendments to the Tobacco Products Control Act on March 30.

They are open to public comment until June 29.

Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw said the antismoking regulations were "unrealistic".

"This is not about health, it's about dignity, freedom and respect," he said.

Louw said introducing the regulations was a "dangerous precedent", and that future laws could have an impact on whether a person wanted to be gay, eat junk food or drink alcohol.

He said the anti-smoking laws were vague and the "measures go way beyond anything reasonable".

The laws putsmokers in an isolated place "like some kind of leper".

Louw said that until now the laws had been based on protecting nonsmokers from smokers.

"And this seems to be more than adequate, because it keeps people like me (a non-smoker) fully protected from smokers.

"Already smokers are put in another part of the restaurant... I think it is the people who are passionately antismoking that don't seem to think of it in a serious way."

He said business owners should be allowed to decide whether they wanted to allow smoking or not. "We presume that all business owners would prefer to decide for themselves."

The department has said that the use of tobacco products was one of the leading causes of non-communicable diseases in SAand many parts of the world.

Health department spokesman Fidel Hadebe said Louw's views were "seriously ridiculous and outrageous".

"These laws are the same with tobacco legislation, but these laws are there to self-enforce... we want members of the public to self-enforce these laws. The police won't be going around checking on everyone."

He said there was a concern that "rogue officials" would take advantage of the laws. "When there is no formal or systematic application of law, it becomes ripe picking for bribery and corruption."

Cape Argus

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