Tobacco industry calls on parliament to reject tobacco bill

14 September 2023

By: Lebogang Mashala

The South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (Satta) is urging parliament to reject the Tobacco Products Control Bill and send it to Nedlac for thorough processing.

Satta, which represents all stakeholders in the legal production and manufacture of tobacco products, believes proposed measures in the Bill will promote illegal trade and harm legitimate growers, processors, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of tobacco products. 

It calls for an independent assessment of the Bill’s impact on society before implementation.

The organisation says the illegal tobacco sector, which it considers an organised criminal network, has taken over the tobacco market and the proposed legislation will further empower these criminals. 

Satta’s spokesperson, Zacharia Motsumi, says legal cigarettes’ market share has dropped to less than 30%. “This has had a devastating impact on employment in the sector. In fact, there are now only 10 emerging tobacco farmers, down 92% from 2019 when there were 125. 

“South Africa also has fewer than 155 commercial tobacco farmers, a 21% decrease from the 197 it had in 2019.” 

The illegal tobacco trade has stolen the market and destroyed an entire sector of the economy, he says. “The disappearance of 157 tobacco farmers, the retrenchment of thousands of tobacco workers, and the halving of the sector’s contribution to the national fiscus can all be traced back to lower demand for legal cigarettes.”

According to Motsumi, measures in the Bill will have negative effects on public health, businesses, employment, the economy, and South Africa’s reputation. They will also contribute to the already substantial illicit tobacco market, benefiting only wealthy criminals who will exploit the proposed measures. 

Satta considers the Bill to be regressive in tobacco control and one of the most severe in the world.

Motsumi says existing legislation on tobacco production, manufacturing and consumption is sufficient to address South Africa’s health needs but is not adequately enforced. 

“Consideration of the Bill in its current form is premature and uninformed, and we urge parliament to reject it,” Satta says in its submission to parliament.

“Instead, the draft legislation should immediately be sent back to Nedlac for serious assessment and input from all the social partners. Only then should it be brought before parliament.

“The Department of Health has stated publicly that there has been ‘extensive consultation’ with all stakeholders. This is simply not true: the discussions with the department are irregular and do not represent true consultation. 

“In addition, Nedlac – a statutory body where draft legislation of this nature is supposed to be discussed – has been bypassed, and in the process so has any attempt at a genuine social compact around this legislation.

“Nedlac needs to undertake an independent socioeconomic impact assessment before the Bill is considered by parliament. Tobacco industry circumstances should be fully and independently researched. This is so that the legislation is based on a true understanding of the dynamics – in particular, the mushrooming of the illicit sector. Only then can informed decisions be made about effective sector regulation.”

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