Spaza and Tuckshop Association says NO to Tobacco Bill

The South African Spaza and Tuckshop Association adds its voice to the issue

The South African Spaza and Tuckshop Association (SASTA) was formed in 1997 as a club and in 1999 established as an association. In the year 2000, it was launched as a fully fledged NGO under the then-Greater Johannesburg mayor Mr Isaac Mogase's wing.

The purpose of the organisation is to make the benefits of collective bargaining available to its members: spaza shops, tuckshops, general dealers, hair salons, and clothing stalls. SASTA members are located nationwide in cities, small towns, townships, taxi ranks and on sidewalks.

SASTA aims to facilitate business operations for smaller business owners, who are mostly the vulnerable informal entities seeking education and training regarding general business formalities. We facilitate training on how to professionally manage businesses for all our members. They are taught about small business marketing, financial management, effective stock procurement, customer service, corporate imaging, business formalisation and legal matters. Our members are supported consistently in order to ensure their continued survival and sustainability. Our submission on this Bill is part of this mandate.

The purpose of the organisation is to make the benefits of collective bargaining available to its members: spaza shops, tuckshops, general dealers, hair salons, and clothing stalls.

Our opposition to the Bill

SASTA is opposed to the proposed draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, 2018.

We repeat the concerns raised with government on 28 February 2011 and 23 November 2012, respectively, concerning the regulations relating to the display of tobacco products at wholesalers and retailers. We note with disappointment that those regulations appear to have been included in the current Bill and that government has thus ignored the pleas of small business owners in our poorest neighbourhoods.

We do not comment in detail because the proposed Bill is inherently flawed. This Bill is completely inappropriate for spaza and tuckshop owners, whose interests we represent. We should either be exempted from it entirely or it should be scrapped. The Bill’s provisions cannot be applied or enforced in spazas and tuckshops because they are too small and most of their owners are too poor and unsophisticated.

The display ban is not only impracticable for most businesses but even dangerous. For every tobacco transaction, the shop owner will need to search for cigarettes in a hiding place and among packs that look identical. This will expose our members to a much higher risk of theft and attack. 

We do note that the Bill now also proposes to prohibit the sale of single cigarettes.  A huge majority of our sales is in single cigarettes.  Our customers cannot afford to buy full packs, especially at tax paid prices. If only full packs are available, our customers will only be able to afford to purchase illegal tobacco. This measure effectively bans our entire cigarette trade. Like the display ban, it will force our members to either break the law or close up shop. 

We have also noticed that the Bill wants to prohibit retailers from receiving payments from manufacturers and wholesalers for stocking their brands – a direct prohibition on a source of income for some of our members.

Looking at these three measures alone, it seems that the government wants to blow a hole in the informal economy. We understood that the primary objective of this government was to stimulate economic activity and lift people out of poverty. Why, then, is this Bill so determined to contribute to economic decline in the township economy?

And if there is an attempt to enforce these provisions and restrictions on point-of-sale displays, it will lead to the complete destruction of these small businesses.

It is with particular concern that we note the impact assessment that was included with the Bill makes no mention of spazas and tuckshops, an industry that will lose much of its customers and income because of the inability to sell tobacco products at the point of sale (which is often the entire store). This shows very clearly that whoever drafted this Bill has lost touch with the realities of life for most South Africans, especially SMMEs. 

We believe that people should be free to display and market their merchandise, and that consumers should be free to buy legal products, including tobacco products, and that we should be permitted to receive incentives from tobacco sellers in return for stocking and displaying their products. For more information visit: