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South Africa: Tobacco Retailers Look to Minister for Help to Resist Proposed Smoking Rules

Retailers of tobacco products are banking on newly appointed Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s help in resisting regulations to restrict the display of tobacco products.

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Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has proposed two sets of regulations to control the smoking and sale of tobacco.

One will ban indoor smoking and suggests that, outside, patrons must smoke 10m from a window, entrance or walkway.

The other will limit the display area for the sale of tobacco products to 4m² for tobacconists and 1m² for other retailers. It allows one sales unit per premises for cigarette brands, pipe tobacco, snuff, snus and tobacco-related paraphernalia.

The regulations will affect retailers and wholesalers, with fines of up to R1m for noncompliance. The draft regulations were published in 2010 for public comment and amended in November 2012.

Mr Motsoaledi has drawn the ire of the alcohol industry too with his push to ban alcohol advertising, which could cost it and related sectors, such as the media, billions of rand in lost revenue.

At a briefing on Wednesday, local distributors of tobacco products Clippa Sales and OTP Distributors said their customers were “deeply concerned” about the regulations.

Yusuf Safeda, owner of a 7-Eleven shop in Athlone, Cape Town, said tobacco made up 10%-12% of his sales. The proposed regulations were “ridiculous” and would lead to severe job losses.

“It’s not going to stop anyone smoking but it’s going to restrict customer choice because we’ll only be able to display a few brands and products,” Mr Safeda said. “This is not good for smaller brands.

“The government talks about supporting small business, yet these regulations will damage small business in so many ways.”

Saeed Khot, a specialist tobacconist who owns Brands & Blends in the Milnerton Mall, said most of his income was from tobacco products and the regulations would destroy his business. “To restrict the display of tobacco products in a tobacco shop to 4m² doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I believe tobacconists should be exempt from these regulations.”

There are fears in the industry that South Africa could follow Australia, which requires all cigarette brands to be sold in identical packs, with images of the consequences of smoking.

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