MEMBERS of parliament have questioned the need for new draft rules which aim to more strictly control smoking, along with the marketing and sale of cigarettes.
The Health Department is proposing a total ban on smoking inside public areas like restaurants and stadiums, limiting the marketing of cigarettes, and contemplating whether cigarette packaging should contain graphic health warnings.
Department director of health promotion Vimla Moodley told parliament's health portfolio committee this week that of the average 44000 deaths in South Africa each year, 8 to 9% were related to tobacco.
"Three times more males are affected by this and the main causes [of deaths] are cardiovascular diseases, lung infections, cancers and TB," Moodley said.
Regulations on the display of tobacco products at wholesalers and shops had been republished for public comment, pending review by the department. Moodley said the set of regulations which were sent out for public comment in March was currently under review, among them proposals to ban all smoking inside all public spaces.
The department was also testing "pictorials" among focus groups to see whether graphic displays, or plain cigarette packs, would be more effective to discourage smokers.
While restaurants had designated smoking areas, Moodley argued that workers were often exposed to second-hand smoke.
But the DA's Patricia Kopane questioned why there was a need for new regulations on smoking in public spaces when there was no information on the impact of the previous set of rules.
The ANC's Christina Dube requested more clarity from the department on the new regulations. She said the committee could not be seen as passing legislation for the sake of it.
MPs were not sufficiently informed about the new regulations, she said.
Diratsagae Kganare (ANC) said current regulations were sufficient and the new rules would effectively ban smoking, which would be difficult to police.