On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa identified three key tests that need to be met before the cigarette ban can be lifted in South Africa.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidential ‘imbizo’ on Wednesday cut right to the heart of our core issues. The head of state fielded public questions ranging from issues of criminal punishment to one of lockdown’s most contentious talking points – yes, the cigarette ban was raised immediately.
What needs to happen for the cigarette ban to end?
When asked about the length of the cigarette ban – which is likely to be in place for the entirety of Level 3 – Ramaphosa outlined three key factors that need to be considered before tobacco prohibition comes to an end:
- Progression of the disease: Lower case numbers and deaths are needed before cigarettes are unbanned.
- The health system: Medical facilities must be functioning at a high state of ‘readiness’ when smokes return.
- Knowledge of the virus: The decision to lift any cigarette ban would also be based on the government’s ‘evolving knowledge’ of how COVID-19 actually works. They are still collecting evidence to support their decision.
When will tobacco go back on sale?
Ramaphosa reassured the millions of smokers in Mzansi that the cigarette ban is not a ‘permanent fixture’. He stated that the lockdown will not ‘last forever’, and told South Africans to accept the rule for what it is:
“As I have said in my addresses to the nation, we will not be under lockdown forever. So the ban on cigarettes will be lifted. It is still in place now in terms of our regulations.”
“I think we should accept it as such and with time, as we go to another level, the ban on cigarettes will also be lifted. And as I’ve said, cigarettes are not banned forever in our country, the ban will be lifted…”
Cigarette ban: President Ramaphosa recalls infamous announcement
Ramaphosa also revisited one of the most controversial moments of the lockdown so far. Just days after he confirmed the cigarette ban would be lifted during Level 4, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced that tobacco sales would not be permitted going forward. Cyril has since expressed his regret at the way this was handled, but maintains that this was a decision unanimously agreed upon by Cabinet.
“After my initial announcement on 23 April 2020, following representations that were made by various organisations and individuals and further consideration of relevant medical studies and advice, a different position was ultimately adopted by the Cabinet, before the regulations were promulgated.”
“At this stage, it is difficult to determine when the ban on the sale of tobacco and related products will be lifted. This will depend on such factors as the progression of the disease in South Africa, the readiness of our health systems and evolving knowledge on the nature and impact of the virus itself.”