Government has reaffirmed that the ban on cigarette sales will remain in place throughout the lockdown period. On Thursday [April 16] a man was arrested in the Western Cape for carrying nearly R1-million worth of illegal cigarettes. 

The 35-year-old man was caught transporting 70 boxes of counterfeit JFK cigarettes. He was caught in the Ravensmead area. Officers were suspicious of the van, which displayed an essential services sticker and apprehended the man.

Government has stated that those who defy the Disaster Management Act by selling illegal cigarettes or alcohol will “face the full might of the law”.

In a statement, the Department of Communications said: “The ban was not implemented lightly. Government carefully weighed the potential impact of the loss of alcohol and cigarette revenue. However, the benefits of the continued prohibition on these substances far outweighs any short-term financial gain. The purpose of the lockdown is to save lives and protect the health and well-being of our people. We dare not lose the gains we have made thus far in containing the spread of COVID-19 through the lockdown.”

Smokers are also at a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 as they are more vulnerable. “Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth. Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness. Smoking products such as hookah pipes often involve the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings. The WHO recommends people quit smoking as it makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate. Within 24 hours of quitting, the body starts to recover and repair. Lung function improves and respiratory symptoms become less severe. Respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia also decrease with quitting.”

Government also reaffirmed its stance on the alcohol sale ban. The Department concluded: “Alcohol abuse causes major health, social and economic hardship in South Africa. Alcohol abuse destroys the social fabric of society and leads to the disintegration of families and the destruction of lives. Contact crimes in South Africa (murder, attempted murder, assault and sexual offences) are often preceded by alcohol abuse. The high prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse among adults in South Africa is responsible for the destruction of families, communities and society.”

Facts released by government pertaining to alcohol sales:

  • There has been a notable decrease in violent crimes since the lockdown began.
  • Trauma units have also experienced a much lower volume in cases since the lockdown.
  • Many of the cases treated by trauma units on a typical weekend in South Africa, prior to the lockdown, were alcohol related.
  • The WHO has also supported efforts to limit alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
  • The WHO said that existing rules and regulations to protect health and reduce harm caused by alcohol, such as restricting access, should be upheld and even reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency situations; while any relaxation of regulations or their enforcement should be avoided.
  • The WHO has further encouraged governments to enforce measures which limit alcohol consumption.
  • Alcohol abuse causes major health, social and economic hardship in South Africa.
  • Alcohol abuse destroys the social fabric of society and leads to the disintegration of families and the destruction of lives.
  • Contact crimes in South Africa (murder, attempted murder, assault and sexual offences) are often preceded by alcohol abuse.
  • The high prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse among adults in South Africa is responsible for the destruction of families, communities and society.

Image: Unsplash

Article written by

Imogen Searra