Smoking and the law in South Africa

Most of us, I’m sure, are now aware that there are certain places in South Africa where smokers are not allowed to smoke due to the negative impact it has on second-hand smokers, like the risk of getting lung cancer. In 2000, South Africa became one of the first countries globally to ban public smoking by introducing its Tobacco Control Amendment Act. You might still not be aware of the smoking laws in South Africa and what the punishments are should you be caught disobeying them.

Cigarette Laws

  • If you are under 18, you are banned from buying cigarettes. This includes buying flavoured tobacco products used for hookah smoking. You are also not allowed to enter into smoking areas if you are under 18.
  • Smoking in banned places like restaurants, offices and malls where there is no isolated, sealed off smoking room is illegal.
  • No smoking in a car (even if it’s your own car) when one of the passengers is under 12 years. This is because children are negatively affected by tobacco smoking because their lungs are either still developing or too weak to handle that kind of environmental pollution.
  • Smoking in partly closed public areas such as balconies, pavements and parking areas is not allowed.
  • Smoking in locations used for commercial childcare activities, for schools or teaching/tutoring such as crèches is banned.
  • Tobacco companies aren’t allowed to advertise, hold parties or use marketing to target the youth.
  • Those sugar cigarettes in cute packaging which some of us have been exposed to have now been banned. Children learn by example and if they buy sweets and toys that look similar to cigarettes they are more likely to start smoking because of curiosity.
  • No smoking is allowed in cinemas, on domestic flights in the country and all public transport.
  • Some hotels have also banned smoking inside the building.
  • Only up to 25% of a public place, such as a building or public transport can be allocated a smoking area. This area needs to be physically isolated from the rest of the interior. In other words, this smoking area needs to be enclosed and can only be used as a smoking area where the smoke can escape to the outside.
  • Cigarettes are not be sold individually or ‘loose’.
  • Some restaurants allow families with young children to sit in the smoking area of a restaurant because there might be adults in the family who want to smoke. By law, the manager of the restaurant must make sure that no one under 18 is present in that smoking section.

Punishment for disobeying these laws

  • If the owner of a restaurant/pub/workplace has broken the cigarette laws, where smokers are smoking in a non-smoking are or there are under 18s present in the smoking area, then they will be fined up to R50 000. This is because they have put those non-smokers/second-hand smokers in harm through indoor pollution. Second-hand smokers are at risk for the same health problems that smokers are at risk for.
  • This fine also applies to people selling cigarettes to people under 18.
  • Any smoker found smoking in a non-smoking zone/area will be fined R500.
  • If someone is caught selling a ‘loose’ cigarette they can be fined up to R100 000.

The reason that there are South African laws that ban smokers from smoking in certain areas is because second-hand smoking affects non-smokers. It also damages their health, risking them in also getting lung cancer against their will. So, if you are a smoker, be considerate to those who are non-smokers, look out for the ‘no smoking’ signs and try and obey the laws by smoking in allocated smoking areas. If you have anything to add, please share your story.


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