Proposed legislation which would effectively criminalise smoking outside one’s home threatens individual rights, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) said on Thursday.
“We should not lose perspective on the question of how restrictive a society we want to create,” executive director Leon Louw said in a statement.
“How far do we want to allow government to trespass on our constitutional rights and reduce individual autonomy, especially to the extent of controlling what can be perceived as self-destructive behaviour?”
Louw said the department of health’s proposed new laws, in the Tobacco Products Control Act, would “infringe disproportionately” on the rights of individuals and private property owners.
The regulations would criminalise smoking in any building, outdoor venue, public or private beach, outdoor drinking or eating area, park, walkway, parking area, or within ten metres of any doorway or window.
This would render the provisions businesses had made to accommodate the present smoking laws obsolete.
“Of concern to the FMF is the impact of the regulations on businesses, especially within the hospitality industry, incorporating restaurants, bars, nightclubs and casinos,” Louw said.
Even establishments catering exclusively to smokers would be banned and put out of business.
The deadline for comment on the proposed legislation is Friday.
Louw said the laws would conflict with the constitutionally enshrined rights to dignity, privacy and freedom of association, which were integral to South Africa’s democratic “open society, based on human dignity and freedom”.
The FMF was also concerned the wording of the act was “too vague” to be enforceable.
For example, “the draft regulation that prohibits smoking on public bathing beaches within 50 metres from the closest person ‘near’ the demarcated swimming area, is too uncertain,” Louw said.
“How can we allow laws that will undoubtedly harm our country’s economy by putting people out of business and make our unemployment situation even worse?”
Anyone convicted of puffing in a no-smoking zone would be liable to a R500 fine, while a person in control of an indoor public place where illicit smoking occurred could get a fine of up to R100,000.