In a short statement sent out to media, national police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo said: “In response to posts on various social media platforms, please be advised that cigarettes and tobacco are NOT essential items.”
Speaking to TimesLIVE he added that he had checked against the list of essential items published under the lockdown regulations.
“I went to check the annexure, and cigarettes don’t feature there,” he said.
This was in line with what ministers said at the justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing ahead of the lockdown last week.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize – in a statement on Friday announcing that an 81-year-old at an old age home in KwaZulu-Natal had contracted Covid-19 – said some of the groups most vulnerable to the virus had respiratory illnesses.
He said the “elderly population” was vulnerable, as were those with underlying diseases such as with HIV (especially those with a low CD4 count), chronic lung diseases, auto immune diseases of any kind, chronic kidney disease, cancer or diabetes.
Smokers and “dependent alcohol consumers” were also at high risk, he said.
“We encourage smokers to quit smoking and for those who drink alcohol, to do so moderately,” he added.