Smokers in a puff over law
Health authorities are working at tightening the anti-smoking laws and are proposing a total ban on outdoor smoking, which would make it illegal to puff away in open spaces such as beaches.
Stadiums, zoos, parks, open-air restaurants and beer gardens would all be affected. At beaches, smoking would be allowed only at least 50m away from the nearest person.
But, before introducing any new law, the health ministry will throw open the door for proposals in public discussions next week.
According to the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa, there are 7.7million adult smokers in South Africa - 30% down on the number 10 years ago - who last year smoked an estimated 27billion cigarettes.
It is the second time in five years that South Africa has tried to amend its legislation to make it even harder for smokers to indulge in their habit.
Even before the regulations are debated and final decisions made, smokers are fuming, labelling the plans "extreme", "shameless" and an intrusion on people's rights.
"It's a kind of hysteria, a peculiar semi-religious fundamentalist puritanism," said Leon Louw, director of the Free Market Foundation, which is pushing for an open society free of arbitrary regulations.
Louw believes the regulations are a "vicious assault'' on peoples' choices and lifestyles, saying passing the regulations could constitute a breach of freedom and result in job losses.
"The anti-tobacco fanatics ... the nicotine nazis will not stop until there is full prohibition," he said.
In 2007 lawmakers approved a litany of changes that sought to close loopholes in the Tobacco Products Control Act of 1993.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the act's blanket ban on tobacco adverts.
It rejected a suit brought by British American Tobacco SA, which argued that the restrictions infringed on the company's free-speech rights.
Buoyed by the case, anti-smoking lobbyists are rejoicing at the latest stringent proposals.
"It goes the next step towards protecting health and we think it will work practically," said Peter Ucko, director of the National Council Against Smoking.
Pro-smoking lobbyists argue that enforcing such a broad ban would be impossible but Ucko insisted the laws will work.
Since the 2007 regulations "no one smokes in malls anymore", he said.
Hoteliers appear to be unfazed by the pending changes.
"There might be certain discomfort for restaurants and pubs, but for the hotels I don't think there will be an impact from the revenue point of view," said Eddie Khosa, of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa.
If the changes are adopted, South Africa would be the first African country to go smoke-free.