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New Tobacco Bill in South Africa Could See Vape Sellers Imprisoned

By Grace Lynk 14th November 2023 4 Mins


The proposed tobacco bill in South Africa has encouraged a wave of backlash, with many citizens concerned about prohibition, price increases, and even imprisonment.

A new bill in South Africa, titled the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, will see massive changes implemented across the country, including laws impacting those who vape. 

Prohibitions and regulations will mean that any tobacco or vape products will no longer be displayed in retail settings, with speciality tobacco stores also included in this rule. 

The newly tabled tobacco bill will also anticipate a huge increase on the price of cigarettes and nicotine-substitute solutions, essentially raising the cost of nicotine in general. 

The bad news doesn’t stop there, with a new sin tax, or a tax on ‘harmful’ commodities, being employed in June, resulting in all nicotine products being included in the tax net. 

Obviously, as is the way of vaping advocates passionate enough to defend the cessation products, there has been a wave of backlash targeted at the government for even suggesting prohibition. 

Following a portfolio committee briefing on the bill, members of the public have expressed concerns about the damaging consequences of lumping electronic delivery systems in with traditional tobacco. 

Tshepo Ranko, a vaping advocate on Twitter, said:

“I understand that the government is looking to curb smoking, but this Tobacco Bill doesn’t make sense. 

“They’re extending these restrictions to hookahs and vaping. #StopTheTobaccoBill, because there’s absolutely NO WAY!” 

In support of this sentiment, Dr. Kgosi Letlape has said:

“ The government must understand that it is unethical to withhold information on tobacco harm reduction products from smokers that can reduce the damage wreaked by cigarettes.” 

Letlapes’ main worry as the president of the African Harm Reduction Alliance is that the Bill seeks to ostracise nicotine users, including vapers who have chosen a much safer alternative over cigarettes. 

These individuals are not the only people affronted by the bill, with a survey comprising input from tobacconists and small businesses across South Africa revealing an overwhelming opposition to the changes. 

The survey, which included 1769 stores with a collective 3194 employees, found that 98 percent of respondents from small operations around the country disagree heavily with the display ban. 

With almost 100 percent of all those asked in opposition, it comes as no surprise that three-quarters of respondents are anxious that the bill will criminalise hard-working and legal businesses. 

Alex Jacovides of brand distributor Clippa Sales said:

“Bans do not work. Government should have learnt this hard lesson during the COVID-19 tobacco ban, but obviously it did not.” 

Although the bill will likely amount in prohibition, the main concern for many is the severe penalties for potential defiance, with a proposed punishment of ten year’s imprisonment. 

This sentencing is not even exclusive to outrageous cases, with South Africans at risk of going to prison for so much as displaying a single packet of cigarettes over the counter. 

Naturally, those with even a scrap of empathy, are appalled by this news, with many flocking to social media to express just how inhumane this punishment is for such a small ‘crime’. 

One Twitter user said:

“If you sell tobacco, vapes or related products via courier and delivery, you can be jailed for 15 years? Does that sound fair?” 

Another user said:

“This has to be some kind of joke. I just came across the new tobacco bill that they want to pass in our country. Surely we have more serious crimes?”


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Grace Lynk