• February 28, 2024

South Africa Tobacco Ban May Endure as Lockdown Eases

 South Africa Tobacco Ban May Endure as Lockdown Eases
Photo: Taco Tuinstra

The imminent easing of lockdown rules in South Africa may bring no relief for smokers who’ve been dealing with a tobacco sales ban for almost two months, according to a Bloomberg report.

On May 24, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a further relaxation of South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown from June 1, allowing most of the economy to return to full capacity.

However, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose department plays a key role in determining the lockdown rules, argued in favor of extending the ban when restrictions are next relaxed, according to people who listened to a presentation she recently gave to lawmakers.

A medical doctor and former health minister, Dlamini-Zuma has defended her anti-smoking position, noting that sharing cigarettes could spread the virus.

“When people zol, they put saliva on the paper and then they share that zol,” Dlamini-Zuma said last month, using a local term for hand-rolled cigarettes that sometimes contain cannabis.

Even before the ban, South Africa had one of the biggest illicit cigarette markets, which costs the government about ZAR7 billion ($394 million) a year in lost tax revenue, according to a report published and funded by the Tobacco Institute.

About 90 percent of people who wanted to buy cigarettes during the lockdown were able to do so, albeit at inflated prices, an online survey of 16,000 people conducted by researchers from the University of Cape Town found.