Cigarette ban during level 3, but you can buy alcohol
The Sunday Times has reported on draft level 3 regulations for South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown, which will see the ban on cigarettes continue.
The newspaper reported that cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wants to extend the ban on cigarettes sales, adding that a government insider said the plan was “getting traction” within the lockdown’s National Command Council (NCC).
The news comes after Free Market Foundation (FMF) CEO Leon Louw said he believes the cigarette ban in South Africa may last until 2021.
“Smokers should be prepared to pay R20 for a single cigarette or R200 a box for many months to come,” said Louw.
“The pandemic will be with us in some form until next year, so don’t expect tobacco sales to be unbanned before 2021.”
According to Louw, the “rushed and ill-conceived” ban on cigarette sales has caused a variety of unintended consequences.
“As at the end of April, Treasury has lost in excess R300 million in excise duty from tobacco products, and the illicit trade has been handed the market on a plate and is charging extortionate prices,” said Louw.
Ban a mistake
A recent report on the behaviour of smokers in South Africa shows that the cigarette ban is not having its desired effect.
The ban has been reported as a “spectacular failure”, with more than 90% of 12,000 smokers who responded to an online questionnaire stating they had purchased cigarettes during the lockdown.
A study conducted by the University of Cape Town found that the ban has resulted in an average daily increase in the price of cigarettes of 4.4%, as well as the creation of a large black market.
Additionally, many South Africans continue to buy and sell cigarettes over platforms such as WhatsApp.
Legal experts have warned people that, independent of their feeling towards the ban, it is currently law and people who break this law face penalties.
Alcohol to be sold
According to the latest report, the proposed extension of the ban on cigarettes has caused a split in the country’s NCC – and it has been debated at length.
Other matters which were discussed by the NCC included lifting the ban on alcohol sales and reopening more of the country’s economy.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, gyms, and other recreational facilities are set to remain closed, however.
“The view of the NCC was to reopen liquor outlets under strict conditions in level 3, but there’s been opposition to that from political parties,” said the insider.
The continued ban on cigarettes is a departure from both the Draft Framework for Sectors, published on 25 April, and a previous statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said in an address to the nationon 23 April that when the country moves to level 4 on 1 May, the sale of cigarettes will be permitted.
This did not happen, however, and Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa later said the about turn on cigarette sales was a collective decision.
Moving to level 3 soon
Ramaphosa announced on 13 May that South Africa’s COVID-19 alert level will be lowered from level 4 to level 3 in most parts of the country by the end of May.
In his speech, Ramaphosa also said “in the coming days changes to level 4 regulations will be announced”.
Ramaphosa is set to address the nation at 19:00 today, 24 May, on the latest developments in South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19.
This address follows recent meetings of Cabinet, the National Coronavirus Command Council, and the President’s Coordinating Council, which considered the prospects for the country’s progression from level 4 to level 3 of the national lockdown.