PUFFING ON THE BEACH OUT WITH NEW PLAN: WEEKEND POST

SMOKERS face tough new restrictions that will ban the smoking of tobacco “in any public place” and prohibit the provision of food or refreshments and entertainment in a designated smoking area.

And, if the regulations are adopted, smoking will be prohibited even on beaches where public bathing is permitted unless you are 50 metres away from the closest person near the demarcated swimming area.

The new regulations, published by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in the Government Gazette, will affect all spheres of life if ratified.

They will have a major impact on how restaurants and entertainment venues conduct their businesses.

Restaurant owners in particular are seething because it means they will have to refurbish their interiors to keep in line with the new rules. One owner has labelled the minister’s restrictions “draconian”.

There is also doubt as to exactly how the new Tobacco Products Control Act will be policed given smokers are seldom penalised and establishments do not adhere to existing legislation.

In terms of new regulations smoking will be banned in:

Stadiums, arenas, sports facilities and playgrounds;

Zoos and outdoor eating and drinking areas;

Venues where outdoor events are taking place; and

Covered walkways and covered parking areas.

And for teachers accustomed to nipping outside for a quick puff, the ban extends to the premises of schools and child care facilities.

Furthermore, smoking will be banned within 10 metres of a window and ventilation inlet of a public place and of a doorway or entrance to a public place.

While the owner or manager of these may designate an area for smoking – as is the case in some establishments at present – the regulations state he or she must ensure “smokers are discouraged from remaining in the area longer than is necessary to smoke a cigarette”.

In addition, the owner must ensure no person under 18 is present.

The new regulations also stipulate that a designated outdoor smoking area may not be adjacent to an entrance and “not be adjacent to walkways and other areas where persons generally congregate or walk”.

The size of “No Smoking” signs is also spelt out. The familiar picture of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it must be at least 14 centimetres in diameter.

In addition, a notice with a warning stating “Any person who fails to comply with this notice shall be prosecuted and may be liable to a fine” must be written in black letters, at least 2cm high and 1.5cm across.

Asked how the new laws could effectively be implemented, National Council Against Smoking director Peter Ucko said social norms dictated people were “politely” chastising anyone smoking in their vicinity”.

He added: “Most people create a fuss now, and that’s why the law works.”

DA Eastern Cape shadow health MEC John Cupido said that “sometimes the best policing comes from the public themselves”.

“Police officers should also be well versed in the new laws.

“When the current legislation was introduced the police used to send in undercover officers to make sure the laws were being adhered to, so that might be done in this case.” But Godfrey Schiskeroing, manager of the Boardwalk restaurant Squires Legendary Grill in Port Elizabeth, said the new legislation could have a drastic effect on the restaurant industry.

“We still have customers who enjoy being able to smoke while dining out. Basically, the laws could mean an entire restaurant would have to become non-smoking, with smokers having to enjoy their cigarettes in an area just for smoking,” he said.

Schiskeroing said restaurants would be forced, at substantial cost, to reconfigure their businesses.

“In general, this can also have a negative impact on business itself as smokers may not want to frequent restaurants that no longer serve food in a smoking area.” Restaurateur Paul van der Merwe, owner of Angelo’s in Port Elizabeth, labelled the proposed legislation as “draconian”.

“As it is, when the first new smoking legislation came out [stipulating a specific smoking section] we got an architect in and spent money accommodating the laws. We have made further alterations at cost, and now there are new laws on the cards.”

While Van der Merwe, who does not smoke, supported protecting the rights and health of non-smokers and children, the non-smoking lobby and laws were becoming “too controlling”, he said.

He believed new regulations would have a negative impact on restaurants, but importantly laws were increasingly restricting people’s rights to choose.