Is this really the end of the tobacco ban or are smokers holding their breath in vain?
There are whispers that the much-debated cigarette ban could soon be coming to an end. However, in this country, the way things have been, I just can’t help to think that “die blok raak benoud”. I’m not a smoker nor am I advocating for smoking but I am in fact an advocate for fairmindedness and being sensible.
During the first week of August in the Western Cape High Court, Minister NDZ’s lawyer, Advocate Karrisha Pillay, spoke on her behalf saying that “the ‘overreacting reasons’ for the decision to continue the ban was to protect human life and health.”
I would completely understand this if smokers, in fact, had stopped smoking as a result of the implementation of the ban. I would further understand and even support this if every second person I passed in the car on the road wasn’t smoking, or lighting up a cigarette outside a grocery shop while we all wait in line as only a limited number of shoppers are allowed inside. Or if, when I took my 64-year-old mom to the police station to have her fingerprints done, the police officers themselves were not gathering outside the station while taking a drag from their (most probably) illegally bought cigarettes.
Pillay also said that it was to “reduce the potential strain on the public health system” but unlike with the alcohol ban, which was lifted in June and reinstated again because hospitals had reported a spike in admissions in their trauma and emergency rooms as a result to alcohol-related cases; what difference has there really been with the smoking ban? Smokers are still smoking just as much as they were before.
Actually, I imagine that the smoking ban has been worse for the health of smokers (not that any cigarette is healthy) as many of them have been left with no choice but to smoke illicit cigarettes which contain higher levels of tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine. Many have been forced to buy the most readily available and most financially viable option (and by financially viable I mean anything between R500 and R800 for a carton) that also contains higher levels of the above-mentioned content than their preferred choice of cigarettes.
I am no expert but logic tells me that this is far worse for the health of the human lives Minister NDZ has a responsibility to protect, as she so often claims.
One thing we know for sure is that the continued ban on cigarettes has had a detrimental impact on the economy, which in July was estimated to have taken a loss of R4.07 billion to the illicit cigarette trade and R35 million a day in tax revenue. With this in mind, I ask… why has this massive positive contribution that a lifted cigarette ban would have on the economy been ignored until now?
Let us not forget the equally detrimental effects on the livelihoods of the hundreds and thousands of people who depend on the industry to make a living; ranging from tobacco workers to farmers, processors and retailers. These people have been experiencing severe levels of stress and anxiety because in just 6 months they went from being in a financially secure position to having absolutely no certainty about whether they would still have an income in the next month or two.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be moved to alert level 3 based on a risk-adjusted approach he mentioned that this approach was guided by several criteria including the social and economic impact of continued restrictions. Surely when considering this risk-adjusted approach, which included the social impact these continued restrictions would have, this is something the powers that be saw coming. Yet all of this has been ignored. Until now?
To whose benefit? I say, it must have been to the benefit of someone’s speaker, or PA, brother, sister or privileged child and then, of course, them themselves because we all know that there’s no way that “someone” isn’t pocketing most of the profits made by their cronies.
While those in the tobacco industry are concerned about their futures and that of their children, our government is currently flourishing in COVID corruption to such an extent that they have made arrogant remarks like “there is nothing wrong with relatives of ANC leaders and other politically connected individuals benefiting from government contracts.”
Thus it is my opinion that this possible lifting of the ban has very little to do with the economy of our country because if it did, it would have come much earlier. It has nothing to do with South African citizens and our wellbeing.
The well has either run dry somewhere because they’ve milked it for all it’s worth, or they see trouble on the horizon so they’re cashing in their chips.
Either way, don’t hold your breath too long smokers, they’re still doing the maths, this could go either way.
*These are the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.