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It is senseless to ban cigarettes when you sell alcohol, says Julius Malema

EFF leader says smokes ban must be backed by scientific evidence

28 May 2020 - 15:19 By Zingisa Mvumvu

EFF leader Julius Malema held a virtual press conference regarding the coronavirus pandemic on May 28 2020. He urged government to reconsider what. he calls the premature opening of various sectors of the economy as well as the reopening of schools. Here are 5 key points from the press conference.

EFF leader Julius Malema on Thursday accused the ANC government of making an irrational decision by lifting the ban on alcohol when the country entered level 3 of the national lockdown on June 1.

Malema said it did not make sense to retain the ban on cigarette sales when you have lifted the prohibition of alcohol. He said alcohol was the worst of the two evils, saying both booze and smokes should not be allowed to be sold at level 3.

Malema said hospital trauma units would be overwhelmed by people getting into fights because of alcohol consumption, or women and children being physically abused by intoxicated men.

On the other side, said Malema, there was no evidence of people at hospital trauma units because of tobacco products. 

“The banning of tobacco should be supported by a scientific explanation and in the absence of that, it is egoism and abuse of power,” Malema charged.

“Scientifically it has been proven that trauma units in hospitals become extremely overpopulated with incidences that derive from alcohol.

“There is no-one who can put a scientific argument that cigarettes contribute significantly to overpopulation of trauma units. It cannot be correct that you uplift alcohol sales and ban cigarette sales.”

Malema insisted that as much as smoking was responsible for diseases such as lung cancer, compared to problems caused by consuming alcohol, it was the better devil.

The firebrand former leader of the ANCYL, however, in the same breath praised minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for her antismoking stance.

Attacks on Dlamini-Zuma were “nonsensical and unacceptable”, he said.

Malema backed Dlamini-Zuma: “We all know where Nkosazana comes [from] with the battle against tobacco, her attitude on tobacco does not start now.

“And it is a principled stance she has taken, we must support her and in the long run ... we must at some point find a society that is free of cigarettes.”

Malema, a known friend of controversial businessman Adriano Mazzotti who operates in the tobacco industry, defended Mazzotti, who he said was in fact going to lose because of the cigarette ban.

According to Malema, the banning of cigarettes was benefiting big players such as the British American Tobacco (BAT) and killing “small suppliers” like Mazzotti.

“So the cigarettes is banned in South Africa and not in Namibia and BAT exists in Namibia because it is a multinational company.

“When you ban cigarettes in South Africa, BAT does not get to be affected because it continues to sell in other countries, but the small companies that sell in South Africa are the ones that are going to collapse.”

Malema said small tobacco suppliers were not going to survive post the lockdown but the big players would remain standing and effectively become a monopoly.

“But let us tell you, we do not care, whether you open or you close cigarettes in South Africa, we actually do not want cigarettes,” he said.

“But if you put alcohol here and put cigarettes here, cigarettes would win against alcohol if we are not going to be emotional about it.”

EDITOR'NOTE: This story has been amended since it initial publication to clarify that Malema said both alcohol and cigarettes should be banned.