MINISTRY of Health and Child Care has called on the law enforcers to descend on public smoking offenders as the ministry intensifies its crackdown on citizens reluctant to comply with the Public Health Act (Tobacco Control) Regulation 264 of 2002 which prohibits public smoking, deputy director for the department of mental health services and susbtance abuse, Mrs Dorcas Sithole has said.

Mrs Sithole told Sunday News that the ministry had engaged the Ministry of Home Affairs to descend on people smoking in public places such as public transport, public halls, public gatherings and on the streets. She said people smoking in public risk arrest.

"As the ministry, we have intensified campaigns against public smoking spelling the health impact of use of tobacco. We have engaged the Ministry of Home Affairs to assist us in deterring public smokers. According to the Public Health Act on tobacco, smoking in public places such as public transport, public halls, public gatherings, eating places including on the streets is an offence. All public smokers will be prosecuted. The offence attracts a $500 fine or a custodial sentence not exceeding six months," she said.

Home Affairs deputy minister Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi said the police would start enforcing the law as soon as they had completed educating the public.

"That is in order, but we will only arrest offenders once the public is aware," he said.

Mrs Sithole said the Government was trying to protect non-smokers from secondhand or passive smoking after effects.

Passive smoking has been linked to lung cancer because secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are irritants and toxins, and some of which are known to cause cancer.

There is some evidence suggesting it might be linked to lymphoma, leukaemia, brain tumors in children, cancers of the larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), nasal sinuses, brain, bladder, rectum, stomach, and breast in adults.

Mrs Sithole said the ministry was also awaiting the approval of national alcohol control policy which also makes alcohol abuse and excessive consumption an offence.

The proposed Bill states: "a person will not be allowed to have more than 0,08 percent blood alcohol concentration in his/her bloodstream and anyone found to have exceeded this level risks being arrested".

"The Bill awaits approval and once approved the policy regulates how much alcohol an individual should consume in licensed public places," Mrs Sithole said.

Mrs Sithole said the ministry had noted that there has been an increase in the abuse of drugs mainly by youths below the age of 35. She said drug abuse cases became rampant following the introduction of the multi currency system which was introduced by the Government in 2009.

"While I do not have the statistics at hand of reported cases of drug abuse and people found in possession of illicit drugs, these cases have become rampant in the country mainly as a result of the multi currency system.

"Government is very much concerned at the rate at which such cases are increasing. Most of these illicit drugs destined for South Africa were being diverted into the country," she said.

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