Ramaphosa says cigarettes will be unbanned again... someday

President Cyril Ramaphosa, participating in a virtual imbizo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, participating in a virtual imbizo.
GCIS
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ban on cigarettes will be lifted, but did not say when.
  • He said the "social ills" brought on by the unbanning of alcohol are "deeply regrettable".
  • He called on South Africans to accept the reality of the pandemic and take the necessary precautions.

The ban on cigarettes will be lifted, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, but when exactly this will be, he didn't say.

Ramaphosa interacted with the public in a virtual imbizo - a public participation platform, where communities can interact directly with the government – on Wednesday evening.

After Ramaphosa's short address, the very first caller asked when the ban on cigarette sales will be lifted.

"I'm struggling to get cigarettes," he told the president.

"We will not be in lockdown forever," Ramaphosa responded. "So the ban on cigarettes will be lifted."

He pointed out that it is still in effect, though.

READ | Cigarette ban is supported by science, govt argues in court

"It should be accepted as such."

"Cigarettes are not banned forever in our country. The ban will be lifted."

Ramaphosa was also asked about the rationale of unbanning alcohol sales.

He said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) discussed this extensively, and thought that the alcohol ban should be lifted at Level 3.

Economy

He said they also opened other areas of the economy, as they couldn't keep the economy closed forever.

"Life could go on, but under restrictions," he said.

He said after the alcohol ban was lifted, the "ugly side of our social life" reared its head, with the "excessive abuse of alcohol which led to other social ills".

He said there was a rise in road accidents and violence, which clogged hospitals' emergency rooms, which were empty while alcohol was banned.

"This is regrettable, deeply regrettable," Ramaphosa said.

He said South Africa is one of the countries with the highest levels of alcohol consumption.

"We cannot ban alcohol forever."

He said where alcohol had been banned, it led to the illicit trade of alcohol, giving rise to a host of other problems.

The ban on the sale of tobacco products has been one of the burning issues of the lockdown. An argument often raised against it, is that the ban fuels the illicit cigarette trade.

Infections

In his opening remarks, Ramaphosa noted the rapid rise of Covid-19 infections – confirmed infections have breached the 150 000 mark, a third of those in just the past week.

He said the government's scientists had warned about this happening.

"The reality is, we could not remain in lockdown forever," he said. "People need to earn a living."

"Our healthcare facilities are under a great deal of pressure."

He called on South Africans to accept the reality that the pandemic is nowhere near its end, and he implored people to continue with the necessary precautions.

"We have to live with this virus until a vaccine is found."

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