South Africa’s political parties have shown that when it comes to tobacco control, they don’t prioritise the health of the citizens they want votes from.
In February the National Council Against Smoking launched an online survey to get the views of political parties on the Draft Tobacco Control Bill, set to go before Parliament later this year.
The Council sent the survey to eight of South Africa’s most well known parties: the African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the United Democratic Movement, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Azanian People’s Organisation and newcomers to the political scene, Good.
They were asked about the Bill in general as well as each of the five elements of the bill:
100% smoke-free indoor public places
The regulation of e-cigarettes
The removal of tobacco marketing and adverts at till points
Plain packaging of cigarettes
The removal of cigarette vending machines
However, a month after receiving the survey, only two of the eight parties responded: newcomers Good and the ACDP. Their responses show that they are serious about the health of the citizens they wish to serve.
The survey results were collated and released today at the launch of the Political Party Health Report Card.
Asked about whether or not they support the Bill, Nthabiseng Lephoko, National Chairperson of Good said: “Illnesses caused by the tobacco like lung cancer, emphysema, asthma and bronchitis cost South Africa almost R60 billion per year. This cost is more than was allocated to fund higher education in 2018 or nearly three times what the increase in VAT to 15% raised for government. Each year, smoking results in more than 40,000 deaths in South Africa.”
ACDP Gauteng chair Lesiba Molokomme said that the benefits of the Bill would outweigh the jobs that could be lost.
Molokomme pointed out that the ACDP has been consistently supporting tobacco control in South Africa and that their Member of Parliament Cheryllyn Dudley was the one to propose a ban on smoking in cars when children under the age of 12 were present.
But other parties simply failed to respond to the survey on the Bill and did not attend the launch of the report card.
Savera Kalideen, Executive Director of the National Council Against Smoking, said the poor response to the survey showed that South Africa’s political parties do not take the health of voters or the prevention of illness to voters seriously.
“It’s very disappointing to us to see that political parties are not engaging with the Draft Tobacco Bill which was released for public comment ten months ago. This shows that political parties are not thinking about the health of the nation at all.
“Smoking increases the harm from diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, worsening the condition in people who already have these diseases,” Kalideen said.
Statistics SA reports that more than half of the estimated 460 000 deaths in 2015 were due to these non-communicable diseases. Aside from the suffering to the individual, an increase in the number of people with tobacco-related illnesses puts more pressure on the country’s public health system, which is already under severe pressure.
The National Department of Health needs to be commended for being committed to improving tobacco control legislation in the country in the interest of protecting the health of South Africans.
“But if political parties were serious about our health, they would have made it a priority to understand the Draft Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill since it will play a major role in reducing the burden of tobacco-related diseases on our health system in the future,” added Kalideen.
For additional comment contact:
National Council Against Smoking Executive Director
Tel: 011 7251514