E-cigarettes banned at Playhouse

Eugene Benjamin smokes an e-cigarette.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi wants e-cigarettes banned in public places just like tobacco products, but until the needed change in legislation is promulgated – an amendment to the Tobacco Products Control Act – they may be “smoked” quite legally, anywhere.

Somerset West community theatre, The Playhouse Theatre in Lourensford Road, is grappling with the problem as the result of complaints from patrons during shows recently.

“We’ve received several complaints from patrons watching shows, who object to people using e-cigarettes during a performance,” front of house director Noel Pitout told Bolander.

The complaints centre on the clouds of “smoke” (actually vapour) emitted by e-cigarettes, which objecting patrons find interferes with their theatre experience.

The City of Cape Town environmental health department, in response to a media inquiry by Bolander, confirmed the following:

“There is no reference in current tobacco control legislation on e-cigarettes and also no policy regarding the smoking thereof in public places, mainly due to the fact that the substance that are being smoked in these devices are not tobacco products.

“We do, however, believe that the owners of public places like restaurants and theatres can develop policies to prevent the usage of e-cigarettes on their premises or part of their premises.”

Speaking on behalf of the Hottentots Holland Dramatic Society (HHDS), which owns and operates The Playhouse Theatre, chairman Darryl Spijkers said: “The smoking of tobacco products in public places has been regulated in accordance with most first world statutes.

“Why would one want to compromise these laws by smoking something no-one can be sure is a non-tobacco product?

“It is just good as not dumping toxic waste just anywhere but allowing the dumping of bio-degradables on any corner and assuming it won’t be a hazard. As a public venue, our duty is to the bulk of our patrons who have understood and respected each other enough to take smoke breaks outside.”

He said e-cigarettes will therefore be treated like any other tobacco product, and their use in the theatre building will not be permitted.

“E-cigarette smokers will have to smoke outside the building in accordance with existing tobacco control legislation, as do user of tobacco products,” he said, adding that steps would be taken to adequately inform patrons of the decision to disallow the use of e-cigarettes in the theatre building.