Only two out of eight popular South African political parties responded to a survey to test their stance on the draft tobacco control bill.
According to executive director for the National Council Against Smoking, Savera Kalideen, eight political parties including the ANC, DA and Azapo had been requested to share their views on whether they support the bill ahead of the election.
Kalideen, who spoke during a briefing, said they were disappointed when only two parties - Good and the ACDP - responded positively to the online survey despite numerous appeals. She said the survey was meant to drive awareness about the importance of the bill while also informing members on how political parties intend tackling tobacco control.
The draft bill, which was released on May 2018, is meant to introduce stricter tobacco regulations in order to reduce the impact of smoking on people’s health. Some of the regulations include introducing plain cigarette packaging and doing away with advertising. About 42,000 people in SA die annually due to tobacco-related illnesses.
National Good chairperson Nthabiseng Lephoko, who attended the briefing, said they were in support of stricter regulations against tobacco because of the high number of deaths associated with smoking. Lephoko said despite high taxes on tobacco products, people continued to engage in risky behaviour such as smoking in the presence of children. She said tobacco-related illnesses were a burden to the country’s health system.
Lesiba Molokomme from the ACDP said some political parties might be reluctant to support the bill because they receive funding from big tobacco companies. Molokomme said it was unfair to put people’s health at risk in order for some parties to continue benefiting.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco use is mostly prevalent amongst poor households, while money that could be used to fund food, shelter and healthcare ends up being used towards buying tobacco.
*This article first appeared in The Sowetan newspaper.