Speaking out on the cigarette ban

2020-05-13 06:04
Tobacco and alcohol remain banned during Level 4 of the national lockdown.photo: Sourced

Tobacco and alcohol remain banned during Level 4 of the national lockdown.photo: Sourced

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SINCE the commencement of the national lockdown in March, many South Africans were shocked to find out that the sale and distribution of alcohol, as well as the sale of tobacco-related products were prohibited as part of the regulations put forth.

When the reduced alert level was announced at the end of April, many were led to believe that the regulation regarding the sale of tobacco will at least be reversed.

However, when the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) were imparting the regulations for level four, they announced that after much consideration, meetings, in conjunction with response from the public, the sale of tobacco-related items will remain prohibited until a lower alert level.

Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma cited various reasons, apart from the obvious health concerns as to why the regulation will remain in place, which included the tendency of smokers to share cigarettes.

During this address, the NCCC also noted that the emergency rooms of hospitals have seen a reduced number of admissions which they attributed to crimes committed while under the influence of alcohol.

The announcement of the alcohol and tobacco restrictions received a massive uproar from the community and has subsequently seen the increase in the trade of illegal cigarettes and home-made alcohol; both of which are said to have possible health complications.

The tobacco ban has resulted in a R1.5 billion loss in tax revenue according to SA Revenue Services (SARS) Commissioner Edward Kieswetter.

In a recent statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa defended the decision of the NCCC. He stated that it was a collective decision, and that every regulation has been carefully considered. He further added that Government is making every effort to act in a way that advances the rights to life and dignity of people of South Africa.

Despite the uproar there has been mixed opinions from a local perspective.

One resident, Amit Das said: “I feel that it is not conducive, as a person will find means and ways to get their cigarettes. The scare of cancer has not deterred them, so the threat of a new-fangled disease will not affect them either. Its an addition and they will feed it whichever way possible, banned or unbanned.”

Another resident Len Morgan said: “While I understand the president and council’s reasoning for continuing on with the ban, I feel like a lot of people were more upset with the fact that they backtracked from what was initially said in the President’s addressed to what was delivered in the council’s address. There should have been a grace period for smokers to perhaps stock up, in a similar way they had the cross-province once-off allowance, because now we are hearing news about contraband cigarettes being seized and exuberant prices for cartons.”

Speaking on this, a SAPS communications officer, Captain Linzi Smith said: “We are all affected by [Covid-19] and therefore we need to have the tolerance and respect for everyone around us. Respect the DMA and Presidential instruction. The sooner everyone completely adheres to this, the sooner all our lives can go back to normal.”

SAPS would like to remind the community of the following:

The selling/dispensing/distributing of alcohol is prohibited in phase 4 and persons caught will be charged under the DMA regulation 26(1).

The selling/dispensing/distributing of cigarettes is prohibited in phase 4 and persons caught will be charged under the DMA regulation 27.

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