What is the logic in the continual ban on the sale of tobacco products and how does that assist in preventing the spread of Covid-19?
According to Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the apparent loudest voice in the controversial Covid-19 Command Council, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, smokers “share a zol…” Is this the reason; that tobacco products can’t be sold because some smokers “share a zol”? Are they less likely to do that because there are fewer cigarettes? Must the citizens of South Africa be treated like children? When did South Africa become a nanny state?
We have known for a long time that Dlamini-Zuma is a very good friend of Carnilinx Tobacco Company boss, Adriano Mazzotti, who’s company apologised for defrauding the South African Revenue Services back in 2014. In Jacques Pauw’s investigation into the Zuma administration in his book, The President’s Keepers, it was revealed that Mazzotti was a contributor to the then ANC presidential hopeful Dlamini-Zuma. He also allegedly made “secret payments to other members of the Zuma family, including the president and his son Edward.”
While no court of law has ever confirmed this connection, it is true that Mazzotti and Zuma have travelled to many of the same national and international events and have been photographed together on many occasions.
As South Africa moves to Level 3 of the national lockdown from June 1, the ban on alcohol sales will be lifted, although still restricted, yet the complete ban on tobacco products remains in place. When first announced that tobacco sales would be banned when the national lockdown was first put in place (Level 5 from March 27), even non-smokers questioned the logic of the ban. An entire legally-constituted industry was effectively closed down and illicit cigarette manufacturers rushed to take up the slack. Since then the government has foregone billions of rand in lost revenue due to the ban on both legal tobacco and alcohol sales.
However, as from June 4 alcohol will once again be available for restricted sales, but the ban on tobacco sales remains. The banning of legitimate tobacco sales has lost perhaps several billion rand to the government that could have been used to purchase much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) or funding more testing or even funded research into a Covid-19 vaccine. Instead the illicit tobacco sellers have made triple this amount (tax accounts for only a portion of the revenue received) and, with no end to the ban in-sight, will continue to do so at vastly inflated prices.
The question of health has also been raised, but to some withdrawal from nicotine addiction could, in fact, be more harmful than allowing smokers to continue with their addiction.
While only a very small percentage of drinkers are actually addicted to alcohol, almost every smoker is an addict. From a human rights perspective this must be regarded as cruelty, and smokers (of tobacco) do not usually commit violence because they are smoking, do not cause road accidents, do not commit acts of public violence or unruly behaviour. These things, however, are often associated with the consumption of alcohol.
The government has asked a lot of its citizens during the national lockdown, but seem totally at a loss to provide a logical reason for the tobacco ban.
As always, Talk of the Town welcomes your comments and suggestions.