The new smoking law in South Africa

According the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco kills half of those who use it and it estimates that about 700 million children or almost half of the world’s children inhale air polluted by tobacco smoke.

The new South Africans laws strengthen existing legislation on smoking in public places, regulating the manufacture of tobacco products, the marketing of tobacco products to avoid making cigarettes appealing and require new pictorial health warnings on tobacco packets.

Some changes in the law with immediate effect, include:

  • An increase in the fines for smoking or allowing smoking in a non-smoking area. The fine for the owner of a restaurant, pub, bar and workplace that breaks the smoking laws is now a maximum of R50 000, and for the individual smoker R500.
  • No smoking in ‘partially enclosed’ public places, such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways and parking areas.
  • No smoking within 5 metres from all entrances.
  • Young children will be better protected from the harms of second hand smoke, like asthma, wheezing, or bronchitis:

Adults may not smoke in a car when a passenger under 12 years is present.

Smoking is not allowed in premises (including private homes) used for commercial childcare activities, or for schooling or tutoring.

No person under 18 may be allowed into a designated smoking area. The practice of parents taking babies into smoking areas of restaurants is outlawed.

  • The tobacco industry can no longer hold ‘parties’ or use ‘viral’ marketing to target young people. Although tobacco advertising was banned in 2000, the cigarette companies found other ways to promote cigarettes. It used the Internet, SMS and ‘”buzz” or “viral” marketing to get its messages to teenagers. In viral marketing, cigarette company reps go with a trunk-full of cigarettes to clubs, discos, coffee bars, college campuses and invite teens to parties, pop concerts or a major sporting event, at which they are lured into smoking.
  • The sale of tobacco products to and by persons under the age of 18 years is prohibited, as is the sale of confectionary or toys that resemble tobacco products.
  • Cigarette vending machines must sell tobacco products exclusively and cannot be used to sell other products like crisps and chocolates. The vending machines can only be located in areas to which minors do not have access.

Further changes in the law will come into effect later this year, because the Ministry of Health is still finalising regulations. These include:

  • The use of picture-based health warnings on tobacco packaging. This will provide customers with truthful and vivid information about the harms of tobacco use in a way they can understand.
  • Pollution from tobacco smoke will be further reduced by restricting smoking in certain outdoor areas. Smoking will be moved away from entrances to buildings and smoking will be restricted in sports stadia, railway platforms, bus stops and al fresco dining areas. This means smoking at football, cricket, rugby and other sports stadiums will be regulated.
  • The introduction of cigarettes which self-extinguish, thereby reducing the risk of fires. Cigarettes cause about 5% of all fires in South Africa.
  • The terms ‘low-tar’, ‘light’ and ‘mild’ will be prohibited. Such labels suggest that ‘light’ cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, when they are not. Smokers who switch from ‘regular’ to ‘light’ cigarettes do not reduce their intake of tar or nicotine, or the risk of disease.
  • Regulate the chemicals that can be added to tobacco products and require tobacco manufacturers to disclose the harmful additives used in the manufacturing process.

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) has welcomed the new legislation as one that “will have dramatic, important and far-reaching effects on public health and the tobacco industry’s marketing activities.”

NCAS director Dr Yussuf Saloojee said only 22% of South Africans smoked while four out of five people (78% adults) did not smoke and did not want to be exposed to tobacco smoke in public places.

“Smoking remains a leading cause of premature, preventable death in South Africa. Tobacco kills 44 000 South Africans every year (three times more than motor car accidents). Our efforts to reduce the death toll will be helped by the new legislation,” said Dr Saloojee.

Other important efforts are being made by one local company that has introduced a much needed outdoor ashtray solution.

The company Ash n Ad, supplies cigarette ashtrays to businesses free of charge to help comply with legislation related to South Africa’s new smoking ban.

With millions of smokers now heading outdoors to smoke, this has lead to an increase in smoking related litter – primarily discarded butts. This confirms that there is a demand from both the smoker and business owner to use the Ashtrays now available. Local council also see the value of the ashtrays as a way to help reduce litter on our pavements too.

For more information on these ashtrays please visit

Lets keep South Africa tidy.

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