South African tobacco advertising ban hits snag

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JOHANNESBURG--President NelsonMandela has refused to sign South Africa's controversial Tobacco Products Amendment Bill because his legal advisers say it may be unconstitutional. It has been sent back to Parliament for redrafting. The bill would have outlawed all advertising and promotion of tobacco products and banned smoking in public places.

The tobacco industry, media owners and the Freedom of Commercial Speech Trust have all opposed the tobacco bill, arguing that it violated the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Plans were in motion to challenge it in the constitutional court.

Mr. Mandela's advisers, however, had reservations not about the intention to ban tobacco advertising but about certain "overly broad" clauses, such as one which would prohibit "organized activities" financed with tobacco money. It was felt this would infringe the freedom of association. A clause which would allow prohibition of smoking in private homes was also considered too broad.

Though the rejection will delay implementation of the bill until possibly the second half of this year, the proposed ban on tobacco advertising still seems likely eventually to become law.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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