From petitions to legal threats — 5 must-read stories on the controversial cigarettes ban

04 May 2020 - 10:12 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's ban on the sale of tobacco products has seen a wave of resistance from SA smokers.
Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's ban on the sale of tobacco products has seen a wave of resistance from SA smokers.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma continues to be on the receiving end of wide-ranging criticism as smokers challenge the lockdown ban and big players in the tobacco industry threaten legal action.

South Africans were in for a surprise last week when Dlamini-Zuma announced that the government had decided not to lift the ban on cigarettes and tobacco products under the eased restrictions of level 4.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had previously announced that cigarettes and tobacco products would be sold during level 4 of the lockdown.

Here are five must-read stories on the controversial ban:

Health concerns behind the ban of ciggies and tobacco products 

After engaging with citizens during the public submissions process on the regulations which would take effect under level 4, Dlamini-Zuma said about 2,000 of them opposed the sale of cigarettes. Based on this and other health-related concerns, the government decided not to lift the ban, said the minister.

Thousands sign petition opposing ban

An online petition launched by Bev McClean had received more than 491,000 signatures at the time of publishing, after Dlamini-Zuma's announcement. It was started before the start of the lockdown on March 27.

Pleading with the government to overturn its decision, the author of the petition said nicotine withdrawal led to anxiety, stress and depression, among other things. The petition also noted that lifting the ban would save jobs and help keep the economy going.

Threats of legal action

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) on Thursday said it would challenge the regulation which allowed for the ban of cigarettes in court.

Spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said the ban had a negative effect on the economy and promoted criminal acts such as the smuggling of cigarettes from neighbouring countries.

Dlamini-Zuma defends ban

The minister defended the government's decision to keep the cigarette ban, saying it was responding to the needs and concerns of the citizens.

“I don’t think you can say the measures we are taking to save people's lives are draconian. It’s the virus that’s draconian because it affects people — it kills people,” she said.

Tito Mboweni opposes ban

Finance minister Tito Mboweni was opposed to the ban of cigarettes and alcohol, but decided to support cabinet after he lost the debate. Speaking to MPs last week, Mboweni lamented that the pressure to spend a lot of revenue amid huge losses put a huge strain on the nation's finances.

He added that the SA Revenue Service and Treasury expected a decline of up to 32% in collection of taxes, as the economy struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic.


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