South Africa’s tobacco industry has warned that the national lockdown regulations banning the sale of cigarettes could turn the country’s 11 million smokers into criminals.
“If people can’t buy little things like cigarettes and other tobacco products near home they will be tempted to look elsewhere,” says Ntando Shadrack Sibisi, chairman of the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance.
The alliance represents tobacco farmers, workers, processors and manufacturers across the local value chain. Tobacco growing in South Africa comprises more than 8000 farm workers with more than 30 000 dependents in rural areas.
“The national lockdown shouldn’t be an experiment in getting smokers to quit. The regulations are intended to stop people moving around – but the ban on cigarette sales could turn 11-million consumers into criminals as they look for ways to access their favorite brands.
“The current ban will encourage illegal activity – including fueling illicit trade – and people may be tempted to break the regulations as the lockdown sets in. Their movement also increases the potential spread of Covid-19, so we would argue that people should be allowed to buy cigarettes at the point of sale nearest their homes, as with other essential goods. It is the logical solution.
“We appeal to government to amend the regulations as soon as possible. The law enforcement authorities have enough on their plate without having to worry about catching people who want to
“Point of sale regulations are already tight enough to prevent an abuse – such as the sale to minors – so we would urge an urgent review,” says Sibisi.
“Decent citizens want to obey the lockdown. That gets harder if they can visit stores but are banned from buying goods they see on the shelves every day.
“Stopping the unnecessary movement of people makes sense. Banning the sale of cigarettes for 21 days does not.”