Departmental spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said the Bill has been cleared by the department's legal unit and will be submitted to Cabinet for approval early next year.
Originally published for comment in the Government Gazette in October 2003, the Bill has been with the department since then.
It seeks to raise the fine for smoking in a public place from R200 to R2 000, and up to R100 000 for repeat offenders, and the fine for advertising tobacco products from R200 000 to a maximum of R900 000.
It also proposes health warnings featuring graphic pictures on tobacco products to stop tobacco companies describing cigarettes as light or mild, and to raise the minimum age for sales from 16 to 18.
A loophole in the Act -- a difficulty with wording -- has left prosecutors unwilling to prosecute people for smoking in a public place.
Another has allowed tobacco companies to advertise at point of sale. The department had intended there be only a notice that cigarettes were available.
The department's director for health promotion, Zanele Mthembu, said there are no major differences between the 2003 Bill and the revised version.
The delay in the finalisation of the law is due to the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that was ratified by the South African Parliament in April 2005, and the Bill could not be processed further before this process took over. Mthembu could not say whether there would be public hearings on the Bill when it reaches Parliament. -- (Source: Sapa, iol.co.za, 10 December 2005)