S. Africa moves towards harsher smoking bans

CAPE TOWN, Reuters

South Africans facing tougher anti-smoking laws can soon expect to see smoking banned in vehicles carrying children under the age of 12, a senior parliamentarian said on Thursday.

“In South Africa, on average a person dies of tobacco related illnesses every 20 minutes,” said James Ngculu, chairman of parliament’s committee on health, adding that it was time to take stronger measures to stop the death toll.

An economic powerhouse in Africa, South Africa already has among the most progressive anti smoking legislation in the world, where lighting up in public places is banned.

Under laws that went into effect in 2000, South Africa limited smoking in the workplace, required bars and restaurants to establish sealed off smoking sections and banned tobacco advertising.

But enforcement of the anti-smoking legislation is weak in a country where more pressing issues, such as rampant crime, occupy police time.

A new bill seeking to further regulate smoking in public areas passed in the lower house on Thursday and now moves to the upper house of parliament.

The bill prohibits smoking near windows and doorways to public places, protects children by prohibiting smoking in private homes used for commercial purposes and bans smoking in cars where children under 12 are passengers.