Cigarette ban will not stop smokers from getting their fix

19 May 2020 - 08:44 By Unathi Nkanjeni
The ban on cigarette sales during lockdown Level 4 will not prevent smokers from smoking, says Dr Glenda Gray.
The ban on cigarette sales during lockdown Level 4 will not prevent smokers from smoking, says Dr Glenda Gray.
Image: REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The ban on cigarette sales during lockdown Level 4 will not prevent smokers from smoking, says health department ministerial advisory council member Dr Glenda Gray.

In an interview on 702, Gray said there were no additional benefits of keeping a lockdown and no science behind the ban on cigarettes.

She said the ban was doing more damage than good and it will not stop nicotine addicts from finding cigarettes illegally.

Gray said smokers will buy illegal cigarettes to satisfy their craving, more expensively even if that means less food at home.

“Prohibiting cigarettes will not stop people from smoking, it means people will go out and find it somewhere else,” said Gray.

Earlier this month, psychiatrist Dr Mike West warned about nicotine withdrawal, saying it can lead to physical, mental and emotional symptoms.

“These include coughing, headaches, fatigue, insomnia and constipation. These usually resolve in a week but are followed by other symptoms including depression, anxiety, irritability and cognitive impairment, which gradually diminish over several weeks,” he told TimesLIVE.

He also said the ban on tobacco products was forced on people without their buy-in.

“If you are going to ban cigarettes, you should at least provide smokers with an alternative,” said West.

According to a report entitled Lighting up the illicit market, the University of Cape Town found that the cigarette ban had wreaked havoc.

Among other things, it had undone the progress the SA Revenue Service had made in stamping out illegal cigarettes and given illicit traders a foothold “where they previously could not compete on a quality basis”.

The report also said the ban made street vendors a key source of cigarettes for 26% of smokers and created a thriving black market that revolved around friends and family, WhatsApp groups, and “essential worker” acquaintances.


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