In an affidavit filed with the high court in Pretoria today, May 27, Co-operative Governance & Traditional affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma explained the reasons behind the highly controversial tobacco ban.
According to TimesLive, the affidavit is in response to the application brought forth by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) for the government to lift the ban.
Dlamini-Zuma explains in the court papers that the temporary ban during lockdown was put in place to protect human life and health, as well as to reduce the potential strain on the healthcare system. Dlamini-Zuma also adds that the ban could lead to many young and old smokers to quit the habit.
“The constitution imposes positive duties on the state to protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights, including the right to life and the right to have access to health-care services,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
“Empirical evidence shows that the health benefits of stopping smoking begin soon after quitting.”
Whilst there are limited studies into the links of using tobacco products impacts and COVID-19 and many more still underway, Dlamini-Zuma maintains that tobacco heightens the risk of transmission and could thus increase strain on the public health system.
“However, from the studies that have been done so far, the evidence is that the use of tobacco products increases not only the risk of transmission of COVID-19, but also the risk of contracting a more severe form of the disease,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
“Smokers have higher ICU admissions, higher need for ventilation and a higher mortality rate than non-smokers.”
She also argues that there are a number of behavioural risks connected to tobacco use that could heighten COVID-19 transmission.
“In poorer communities, people are more likely to share cigarettes, hookah pipes, zols, skyf, and/or lighters and matchboxes. This can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission in communal and social settings due to lack of social distancing and sharing infected saliva.”
The tobacco ban was thus put in place to reduce these risks, and is also why it was decided to extend the ban to Level 4 and 3.
“In pursuit of these objectives, and after careful consideration and discussion, it was deemed necessary to continue the temporary ban on the sale of tobacco products under the level 4 lockdown.”