Anti-smoke laws usher in drastic lifestyle changes
Johannesburg â€“ The lifestyle of millions of South Africans is set to change drastically on Friday when new smoking regulations, that bans smoking in public places, comes into effect.
The new laws could also see many people reporting colleagues and neighbours who try to sneak a puff in places where smoking is now banned.
This will be done by calling the department of healthâ€™s new toll-free number - a service that will be established by the end of the year.
Transgressors To Face Tough Fines
When the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act comes into effect on Friday, restaurants, bars, shebeens, hair salons, casinos, Internet cafes, clubs and all other indoor businesses will have a three-month grace period to provide suitable smoking sections for their clients, or face R200 fines.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health told News24 that although no fines would be issued for smoking in public places until after the end of the three-month phase-in period, smokers should use the interim period to get used to not smoking in such places.
She said health inspectors across the country would visit business premises to ensure that they comply with the new set of rules.
Businesses will be able to use the three-month reprieve to make structural changes required for the introduction of sealed-off smoking areas.
Health promotions director Blanche Pitt told the Star newspaper that people smoking in public "cannot be fined or convicted during the three-month phase-in period".
Once the amnesty is over, however, transgressors face tough new fines, with repeat offenders possibly being subject to penalties that will be decided by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
Fines OF Up To R200 000
The fines include:
R200 for people caught smoking in public places;
R10 000 for merchants caught selling cigarettes to anyone under 16 years old;
R200 000 for companies contravening tobacco advertising regulations.
"The smoking area will have to be a maximum of 25% of the total area of the establishment; it must be completely enclosed and have a separate ventilation system or windows to the outside," said Patricia Lambert, a special adviser to the health ministry.
Furthermore, the smoking rooms need to be separated from the rest of the public place by a concrete wall or solid partition, and there should be a sign saying "smoking room" displayed on the door.
The letters, which must be black on a white background, must also be at least 4cm in height and 3cm in breadth.
"If a business thinks it will take longer than three months to build a proper smoking room they can apply for an extension of up to six months provided they present the department with a valid reason."
"Most people will welcome the opportunity to go out without exposing themselves to someone else's second-hand smoke," Lambert said. "It's disgusting, smelly, unhealthy and it costs the country a fortune in health bills."
Restaurants Adopt A Wait-And-See Attitude
Restaurant owners and managers were on Thursday shocked to hear that the Health Departmentâ€™s new smoking ban would come into effect as early as this week Friday.
â€œItâ€™s going to ruin my business,â€ Costa Panayides of Black Steers in Boulders lamented.
â€œNinety per cent of my patrons smoke,â€ he told News24. â€œIt will destroy my business if people cannot smoke inside my restaurant.â€
â€œIt will be too expensive to renovate,â€ he says. His restaurant, which seats 68, is too small to divide.
â€œIâ€™ll wait and see â€¦ maybe I can expand onto the balcony, which should be fine when the weather is nice.â€
Most restaurant owners and managers News24 spoke to had forgotten about the â€œpathetic new lawâ€, as one of them, who asked not to be named, put it.
Jacques Ooshuizen, owner of Fat Arnies in Kyalami, groaned when he heard that the date of implementation had been brought forward by a few days. â€œWe have forgotten all about it - and nearly everybody that comes here, smokes.â€
But then he realised that his two-storey restaurant offered a ready solution: the bigger upstairs area would be suitable for the smokers, while the non-smokers could eat downstairs.
â€œIt will change the atmosphere of my restaurant,â€ complained Mimmoâ€™s Bedfordview manager Stan Stoikov said.
â€œThere is enough space, but to put in partitioning will change the feel of the place. Maybe the smokers can have a puff outside.â€
â€œWe have adopted a policy of wait-and-see,â€ says Duncan Werner, spokesperson for the Spur franchise.
â€œOur restaurants are individually owned, and itâ€™s up to the owners to comply with the law. But individual owners cannot afford to spend R40 000 to R50 000 to put up screens that will anyway just mess up the ambience of their restaurants.
â€œWe are not going to enforce the law for the government. We will wait and see what happens.â€
Mall Guards Wonâ€™t Focus on Smoking Law Transgressors
The centre manager for Cresta Shopping Centre in Randburg, Gerard Geldenhuys, said they were facing a difficult situation. â€œWeâ€™ve had letters from both smokers and non-smokers, saying that either they wonâ€™t visit if smoking is banned, or if it is allowed.
â€œItâ€™s very difficult to accommodate from the ownerâ€™s side â€“ weâ€™ll have to look at the overseas method of dedicating a specific smoking area or room for such purposes. This means owners will have to give up space and lose some income to accommodate smokers, but itâ€™ll be the only way out.â€
Geldenhuys said that from a security point of view, the shopping centre would probably not be instructing security guards to look out for smokers transgressing the law.
â€œWeâ€™d rather have them look out for people stealing things, which is a far more important security issue.â€
As for restaurants and shops, Geldenhuys said, â€œCresta lets the premises to the owners, and they can do what they like within the premises as long as it isnâ€™t against the law. However, if they persistently contravene laws, Cresta is within its rights to give them notice.â€
In general, restaurant owners and managers were resigned. â€œWhat can we do? We have to comply, no matter how silly this new law is.â€
Not that they are happy. As Werner put it: â€œThere are much more important issues in this country that need attention - why bother about smoking?â€ â€“