British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) is calling on the government to revoke the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the nationwide lockdown. They threaten to bring an urgent application to court upon government’s failure to respond to their demands.

BATSA gave the government until 10am today [May 4] to provide clarity on why tobacco products have been banned indefinitely. This came despite President Cyril Ramaphosa announcement that sales could continue under level 4 lockdown on April 23.

On April 29, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the reversal of the decision. She stated that the sale of tobacco products had been revoked. During a briefing from the National Coronavirus Command Council, the Minister reported that government received 2 000 comments regarding cigarette sales.

“The reasons advanced by Minister Dlamini-Zuma for the reversal of President Ramaphosa’s decision are both wrong in law and in science.  Aside from the number of submissions, the Minister speculated that poorer people sharing cigarettes could be more likely to pass the virus to each other,” said BATSA in a statement.
“This deliberately ignored the fact that sharing cigarettes with someone from outside your own household is impossible if the government’s own social distancing guidelines are being adhered to. Also, a prohibition based on the fact that something can be shared by citizens would be, logically, extended to practically any foodstuff or cutlery, or shaking hands. None of this is regulated. They are practices rightly addressed by education.”

This morning, President Ramaphosa explained in a statement that the decision was a calculated one made as a collective.

“On 23 April, I announced that cigarette sales would be permitted during level 4. This was based on the view of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and which was contained in the draft framework that was published for consultation,” said Ramaphosa.

“After careful consideration and discussion, the NCCC reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April extended the prohibition.”

“This was a collective decision and the public statements by both myself and the Minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead.”

“Every regulation we have put in place has been carefully considered. Along the way there has been consultation with medical experts, various constituencies and different industries. We have been guided by international bodies and the experience of other countries.”

Picture: Pixabay

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