Restaurant smoking sections in South Africa and the perceived impact of the proposed smoke-free laws: Evidence from a nationally representative survey

M Little, C van Walbeek


Background. The South African Minister of Health announced in 2016 that he intends to introduce tobacco control legislation that will prohibit smoking in restaurants. This will substantially strengthen the Tobacco Products Control Act (1993, as amended), which currently allows restaurants to have a dedicated, enclosed indoor smoking area.

Objectives. To analyse current smoking policies of restaurants, whether and how these policies have changed over the past decade, and restaurateurs’ attitudes to the proposed legislative changes.

Methods. From a population of nearly 12 000 restaurants, derived from four websites, we sampled 2 000 restaurants, stratifying by province and type (independent v. chain) and disproportionately sampling small strata to ensure meaningful analysis. We successfully surveyed 741 restaurants, mostly by phone. We also surveyed 60 franchisors from a population of 82 franchisors.

Results. Of the restaurants sampled, 44% were 100% smoke-free, 44% had smoking sections outside, 11% had smoking sections inside, and 1% allowed smoking anywhere. Smoking areas were more common in independent restaurants (62%) than franchised restaurants (43%). Of the restaurants with a smoking section, 33% reported that the smoking sections were busier than the non-smoking sections. Twenty-three percent of restaurants had made changes to their smoking policies in the past 10 years, mostly removing or reducing the size of the smoking sections. Customer requests (39%), compliance with the law (35%) and cost and revenue pressures (14%) were the main reasons for changing smoking policies. Of the restaurant respondents 91% supported the current legislation, while 63% supported the proposed legislative changes; 68% of respondents who were aware of the proposed legislation supported it, compared with 58% of respondents who were not aware of the proposed legislation.

Conclusions. In contrast to the vehement opposition to the 1999 legislation, which resulted in restaurants going partially smoke-free in 2001, there was limited opposition from restaurants to the proposed legislative changes that would make restaurants 100% smoke-free. Support for the proposed legislation will probably increase as the restaurant industry and the public are made more aware of the proposed legislative changes, although public opinion is vulnerable to tobacco industry-led campaigns.


Authors' affiliations

M Little, Economics of Tobacco Control Project, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, School of Economics, University of Cape Town, South Africa

C van Walbeek, Economics of Tobacco Control Project, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, School of Economics, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Economics; Public health; Policy; Tobacco; Smoking; Lung cancer

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2018;108(3):240-244. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2018.v108i3.12683

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-02-27
Date published: 2018-02-27

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