Eastern Cape woman on how she’s coping without cigarettes: 'I wish this was my own decision'

Smoking during lockdown (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES)
Smoking during lockdown (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES)

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the nationwide lockdown, which started almost two weeks ago, many South Africans started panic buying. For many, alcohol was at the top of the list of things they needed to stock up on. But one thing that wasn’t as widely known at the time was that the sale of cigarettes would also be prohibited during the lockdown period.

Read more: “I stockpiled alcohol before lockdown, now I can’t stop drinking”

One of the lockdown regulations is that only essential goods may be sold, and cigarettes – unfortunately for those who smoke – aren’t considered essential.

DRUM spoke to Sisipho Bavuma* of Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape about how the ban on the sale of cigarettes has been affecting her.

“I’ve been smoking for almost two years now. I’d say I smoke six to seven cigarettes a day depending on what I’m doing. If my day isn’t productive, I smoke a bit more, and if I’m busy I normally smoke three or four. Cigarettes being prohibited during the lockdown period has been challenging,” she says.

While many smokers have found ways to cope, the enforced lack of cigarettes doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee and I tried meditation. However, nothing honestly gives me the same chill as a cigarette would. I didn’t panic buy because I was already panicking about being in grocery stores with other people. I avoided going into stores altogether,” Sisipho says.

“I don’t enjoy being forced to do things. I’m not okay with taking a break from smoking. I would have been happier if this was my own decision, telling my body, ‘Okay body, we’re taking a break’. If anything, this makes me want to smoke more when the government lifts this,” she tells us.

According to healthline.com, going cold turkey has side effects too. Intense cravings for nicotine, an increased appetite, anxiety, depression and insomnia are just some things smokers go through once they quit. The severity of those effects differs from person to person. Nonetheless, the body still needs to adjust to the lack of nicotine.

Read more: Cigarette ban could force 11 million smokers to seek illicit traders, industry warns

About a week ago the Western Cape Government announced that people living in the province were allowed to purchase cigarettes while buying their groceries. However, this is only the case for the Western Cape and not for other provinces.

The province’s policy goes against that of the national policy, which caused confusion as people were unsure whether to follow the provincial or national regulations.

The ban on cigarettes during the lockdown period has been challenged by those who smoke, one person even launching a petition on the change.org website, a platform used for setting up petitions around the world. In the petition, Bev Maclean states, “We were given 1 days’ notice of the banning of cigarette sales during the lockdown, which is really unfair and spiteful.” The petition’s end goal is to reach 35 000 signatures.

*Not her real name.