Cigarette vendors up in a huff

T

he proposed “Tobacco Bill” has informal traders worried for their livelihoods.

The bill proposes a ban on the display of cigarettes as well as a ban on single cigarettes­.

Traders face a five year prison sentence if caught displaying cigarettes for sale.

The bill was published by the department of Health for public comment in May.

Trader Shakes Mlanduli, who sells cigarettes and sweets, said it would mean they will starve if the bill is passed.

“They would be killing us if that happens. This is how we get to put bread on the table for our families, this is my livelihood,” he said.

Mlanduli said he would not be selling cigarettes if the government provided jobs.

“There are no jobs that is why I decided to stand up and start something and now they want to take it away, they must give me work if that is the case,” said Mlanduli­.

Another trader, Nathi Matroshe, said he would not know what to do if the bill came into effect.

“I decided to start my own business selling cigarettes and chips when I saw the need. I’d be disappointed if government passed the bill,” said Matroshe­.

He said by trading he is also trying to show the youth not to depend on government jobs, but to stand up for themselves.

Rosheda Muller, president of the South African Informal Traders Association, said they are calling on the minister of health to exempt informal traders from provisions in the proposed new tobacco bill.

“The government knows how important the informal trade is to our economy.

“We are saying that the impact on the informal trade needs to be considered before the development of any new laws or regulations, and where necessary, exemptions should be granted,” said Muller­.

The African Cooperative for Hawkers and Informal Business said in a statement a large number of tobacco products are sold by their constituency, sometimes one cigarette at a time, to the country’s most needy and indigent people.

It is well known that illegally imported and counterfeit tobacco products have entered the market and constitute a growing market share.

Excessive regulations have the unintended effect of forcing such people into criminality, the statement says.