Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says there will be no limitations on the sale of tobacco products in South Africa.
The sale of tobacco products, including cigarettes, has been prohibited since the country first introduced a lockdown on 27 March, but will again be available from 00h01 on Tuesday.
In a media briefing on Monday (17 August), Dlamini-Zuma said that there will be no ‘particular’ restrictions unlike those which are applied to alcohol.
She said that the reason tobacco was banned was because of the dangers of Covid-19 as a respiratory disease.
“There was evidence coming from other countries showing that some smokers tend to have a more serious disease which means we will need more ICU beds and maybe more ventilators,” she said.
“On the other hand, the results of stopping smoking do show pretty quickly. Your respiratory tract does improve quickly and just your general well-being improves – that’s why it was prohibited temporarily.”
Dlamini-Zuma said that now that there are beds and ventilators available, the sale of tobacco products is now allowed.
Under South Africa’s level 2 lockdown restrictions, the sale of liquor by licensed premises for off-consumption is permitted from 09h00 to 17h00, from Mondays to Thursdays.
A licensed premises may also sell for on-site consumption, subject to strict adherence to the curfew.
Dlamini-Zuma explained that alcohol is being treated differently to cigarettes because of the clear impact it had on the country’s health sector.
She said that there was clear evidence during the lockdown that the prohibition of alcohol sales led to a decrease in car accidents and a decrease and trauma patients.
“To then just open completely (creates) a risk of the surge coming back and overwhelming the health service. That’s why it was agreed that we start slowly.”
Dlamini-Zuma said that some South Africans were giving her ‘too much credit’ for her role in maintaining the ban on tobacco products for nearly five months.
“People are giving me too much credit that I do not deserve. I do not run government- I am part of a collective in government,” she said.
“The way people have been putting it is that I tell the whole of cabinet that we are going to limit the sale of tobacco.”
She said that this also shortchanging the president and the government’s team.
“Yes, I am the one who signs these regulations because somebody has to. Someone must take that responsibility and I do. But to pretend that it’s just my decisions, I think it is disingenuous to say that. It think some people find it easier to find a scapegoat. It is part of life.”