South Africa steps closer to tobacco ad ban

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JOHANNESBURG--What has been described here as "the world's toughest anti-smoking legislation" has been ratified by President Nelson Mandela despite delaying action from the tobacco lobby, including threats to challenge it in the constitutional court. But the Act has not yet come into operation, and there's still a faint hope that its provisions will be softened.

The Freedom of Commercial Speech Trust says that the Minister of Health, Nkosozana Zuma, would step back from a total ban on tobacco advertising "if it could be proved that advertising will not target or influence children to start smoking."

Peter Vundla, chairman of the Trust, says alternatives to a total ban would be examined and presented to the Department of Health.

The Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act empowers the Minister of Health to enforce a total ban on advertising and promotion of tobacco products and to outlaw smoking in public places. But these bans only come into operation when a date has been fixed by proclamation in the Government Gazette. No dates have yet been fixed, which also makes it possible to phase in the provisions of the Act.

The Trust has suggested that the bans on billboard and radio advertising should be implemented from 2003, on print advertisements from 2004 and on sponsorship from 2006.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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