Sterilisation Amendment Bill; WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: briefing; Committee Annual Report

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22 February 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

22 February 2005


Mr L Ngculu (ANC)

Documents handed out:

World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Department PowerPoint presentation WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Committee Annual Report 2004
Sterilisation Amendment Bill [B12A - 2004] – NCOP amendments
Sterilization Amendment Bill [B12-2004] – tabled version

The Committee was briefed on the Sterilisation Amendment Bill by the Department of Health. The main issues included provision for non-surgical sterilisation procedures and that an independent doctor’s report would have to be supplied to a panel when deciding on sterilisation of a person under the age of 18.

The Department also gave an informal briefing on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The treaty focussed on curbing the spread of the fatal effects, sale and advertising of tobacco products. Member states had been losing billions of dollars in maintaining the health of citizens who suffered from the effects of smoking and secondary smoke. Members expressed concerns about the measures taken when people were caught smoking in public places. They also felt measures taken to curb trade in illicit tobacco products should be strengthened. The Committee adopted the Treaty report and recommended ratification of the Treaty by Parliament.

The Committee also discussed its Annual Report for 2004. Members felt that the report had to be redrafted to accurately reflect all their activities for the year.


Sterilisation Amendment Bill

Clause 1

Mr Motsape, Departmental Law Adviser, briefed the Committee on the amendments. Clause 1 sought to amend the definition of sterilisation because the principal Act referred only to the surgical procedure and did not include non-surgical procedures of sterilisation.

Clause 2
Clause 2(a) excluded persons who were younger than 18 unless failure to do so would jeopardise his/her health. An addition had been made, which states "a person under 18 whose health may be in jeopardy may be sterilised if (1) consent has been given by a person who is lawfully entitled to give consent, and (2) an independent medical practitioner who, before a panel is convened, has consulted with the person to be sterilised, and has provided a written opinion to the effect that the sterilisation is in the best interest of that person."

The Department said that an independent doctor, who had previously consulted with the person seeking sterilisation, would identify the need for sterilisation of the person concerned. The written opinion of that independent doctor should be considered by the panel before sterilisation could be approved. The process had to go through different stages, which were, first, the parent and then the independent doctor’s written opinion, which would then be considered by the panel.

Clause 3, Chapter 7
The Department proposed deleting the word "severe" because it was seen as "subjective" and it was impossible to clearly define the word.

Clause 4
This clause dealt with a full explanation of sterilisation procedures by doctors to potential patients. The proposed amendment came about as the result of the High Court giving the Department permission to proceed with amendments.

Ms M Madumise asked about the translation of the rules governing sterilisation into all official languages.

Mr Motsape replied that all laws of the country were published in all languages as stipulated by the Constitution, including Braille.

WHO Framework on Tobacco Control.
Ms Z Mthembu said that in South Africa, tobacco related diseases killed about 25 000 people a year; 15 000 more than road accidents. Reducing smoking would reduce poverty and would produce huge economic savings for the economy. In 1994, the Medical Research Council (MRC) had estimated that for every rand received from tobacco taxes, it cost the economy R2 to treat smoking related illnesses. The FCTC’s objective was to protect future and present generations from the health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco smoking. The treaty would be in force from 28 February 2005. The treaty was seen as a roadmap that could lead to comprehensive tobacco control programmes and strategies at regional and national level. South Africa had signed the treaty on 16 June 2003. The provisions of the treaty included among others, reduction of the demand for tobacco, pricing and tax measures, environmental protection, revised packaging and labelling, disclosure of the contents of tobacco products, a comprehensive ban on advertising and the prohibition of the sale of tobacco products to and by minors. The Treaty would be integrated into the existing tobacco control initiatives of the Department. None of the provisions of the FCTC were in conflict with any aspects of the SA Constitution.

Ms Madumise enquired how the SA Bureau of Standards would test the harmful effects of tobacco products on humans.

Ms Mthembu replied that the testing methods for the harmful effects of tobacco used by other countries were not credible because the tests were done on machines. The forthcoming conference would also cover testing methods. South Africa would use testing methods were agreed to by all parties.

Mr T Steyn (DA) asked what measures had been taken when people were caught smoking in public places. Why had South Africa not yet ratified the treaty?

Ms Mthembu replied that the Committee had to give the go-ahead for the treaty to be ratified. Fines for transgressors of the law prohibiting smoking in public places had posed problems, because most cases that were taken to court resulted in low fines. New amendments were in the pipeline to increase the fines.

The Chairperson suggested that Members ratify the treaty. Ms M Manana (ANC) suggested the adoption of the report.

Mr S Njikelana (ANC) asked Ms Mthembu about the age profile of the participants in studies in the Western Cape.

Ms Mthembu replied that the survey would cover all age groups as stipulated in the FCTC. It was much easier to conduct surveys in settings such as schools, universities or workplaces, because people remained in the same environment for a long time.

Mrs N Ngcobo (ANC) asked whether snuff was regarded as a tobacco product or simply a recreational consumer commodity. Snuff was popular amongst African women.

Ms Mthembu replied that snuff was a harmful tobacco product, and Sweden had offered to help in the fight to curb the growing use of snuff, because most snuff used in South Africa originated from Sweden.

Ms R Mashigo (ANC) asked what had been done to curb the illicit trade in tobacco products.

Ms Mthembu replied that ratification by member states would make it easier to curb illicit trade. Customs officials had been playing a significant role in curbing the cross-border trade in tobacco products.

Ms P Tswete (ANC) asked when the survey would be rolled out to other provinces.

Ms Mthembu replied that minor improvements would be made to the survey before they rolled it out to other provinces.

The Chairperson asked about consultation of tobacco companies on issues like packaging and labelling, because these required their co-operation.

Ms Mthembu replied that all players, including tobacco companies and non-governmental organisations, would have to play a role when those decisions were made.

Mr Njikelana seconded the adoption and the ratification of the Treaty. The Committee agreed to forward it to the National Assembly for formal ratification.

Committee Annual Report
The Committee discussed the report and found that it was not reflective of all its activities. The Chairperson referred the report back to the Committee Secretary to draft it in a more comprehensive manner.

The meeting was adjourned.



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