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23 August 2001

To smoke or not to smoke. 

We have an amazing constitution. Everyone has a right. Same sex marraiges are allowed. Prostitution will be legal soon, and you can now have some "weed" for own consumption. You can drink as much as you like (just don't drive or cause troubles) and invade someones property (a court order though will get you evicted). You can break into a house, threaten the occupants and no-one can shoot you. Okay, so most of the more "criminal" actions will only count in your favour if you're black, nevertheless, our constitution will look after you fairly well. Just don't be a cigarette smoker!

We all have our little vices (little as in reasonable). I smoke cigarettes. Have been on and off for a number of years. There's probably a possible law-suit against the government there somewhere as this habit took hold of me whilst doing my two-years national services in the armed forces. Then again, that was the old regime.

Forty thousand people will be un-employed if the tobacco companies here had to close doors. Already hundreds have lost their jobs since this ridiculous, invasive and really stupid ban was put in place. Good for the nonsmokers and I respect their rights. The general idea of banning smoking in public places is a good idea. It's definitely helped me in the beginning to cut down quite drastically. But the whole thought process on the implementation and regulation of this law was not done in the correct manner.

Advertising has been banned, sport sponsorship has been banned and smoking in all public places has been banned. This obviously with the exclusion of businesses that can afford to make provision for their smoking clientele and employees. Our local Keg (a pub franchise) survey showed 90% of their customers are smokers. Though they have to make provision (not more than 25% of the total floorspace) for smokers. Restaurants and pubs are the worst hit. Most cannot afford to put the structures in place as required by the new law. The only alternative would be to put the smokers outside (on the pavement, verandah, etc.). Now with the worst of winter (or so it seems) behind us, they can get back to business again. During an extreme cold spell, most of these industries suffered sometimes up to 60% loss in customers. Straight out, when I take my family out to movies and dinner and I can't smoke after a meal, I look for another place to go. So, shopping centers are out for me! Pubs can't afford this way of thought and most of the time the law goes by the wayside.

This government has let real criminals have it all their way for a long time. Now they're trying their utmost to bring it under control again. Where on God's earth are they going to find the resources to enforce such a restrictive law on tobacco? And who's going to pay them? Isn't it enough that they tax all tobacco products as heavy as they are? What about the millions of Rands in taxes they stand to loose when people stop smoking? And believe me, plenty has and plenty more is trying. Job losses? For a government priding itself in job creation (dunno from where) they sure ain't gonna give a damn about the thousands that will be without a job. Ja, it is hard after all these years to have to abide by a law made by a black woman who squandered millions on a total abortion of a AIDS awareness campaign for which she still hasn't been brought to book. Now sitting pretty as Minister of Foreign Affairs, she probably feels quite accomplished and smug. Nkosazana Zuma, I don't like you much.

Download the law as it is and see for yourself. And then of course, the law needed some amendments.

Then again, what more can you expect from a government that can't (or won't) take a stand on the Zimbabwe land crisis? Amazing that sanctions were good enough when the "white supremists" were ruling this country, but the same sanctions won't work with black people!