Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP
This weekend’s chaos at the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill in Gauteng, which saw many people being denied the chance to voice their objections until the DA intervened, highlights the chaos in the industry since former Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, banned the sale of tobacco products during the Covid-19 lockdown.
While the Tobacco Bill might have the best intentions, it’s authoritarian, unreasonable approach is not only unimplementable, it also fails to address the biggest problems with tobacco use. As seen during the Covid-pandemic, unless the illicit tobacco trade is irradicated, the Tobacco Bill will hamper legal trade, but have very little impact on tobacco usage.
Like many of the other Bills currently being pushed through Parliament, the parliamentary portfolio committee on health risks falling foul of the Constitutional Court judgement on the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act, which has made it very clear that “a reasonable opportunity to participate in legislative affairs must be an opportunity capable of influencing the decision to be taken. It is unreasonable if the content of a public hearing could not possibly affect Parliament’s deliberations on the legislation”.
The majority of participants rejected the Tobacco Bill, while raising very real concerns regarding unemployment and economic impact. In a country where 41% of people are unemployed and discouraged from seeking jobs, the fear of job losses cannot be ignored.
The DA urges Parliament to reconsider the Tobacco Bill. It is clear that instead of unreasonable legislation, the focus needs to shift to the eradication of the illicit tobacco trade. Only once headway has been made in this regard, should new legislation be considered.
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