Tobacco association vows to light up the fight on cigarette ban again

Image: iStock.

Millions of smokers had their plans to light up legally again put out like a crushed stompie on Wednesday evening.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) will be reinstating its legal bid to overturn the ongoing ban on the sale of cigarettes, as surprisingly announced by Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday night.

This was confirmed to The Citizen by Fita chairman Sinenhlanhla Mnguni.

The body had earlier suspended its proposed court action following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement last week that the sale of cigarettes would be allowed.

However, he has evidently been gainsaid by his ministers.

“Uplifting the ban would, among other things save jobs, bring more money into the state coffers, stimulate the economy, and decrease the psychological impact on South Africans of the lockdown period,” Mnguni said previously.

ALSO READ: South African smokers fuming over cigarette ban extension

“We are already dealing with huge deficits in as far as our tax collections are concerned with the announcement … SARS collected R66.2 billion less than estimated.”

Members of the National Coronavirus Command Council, as led by Dlamini-Zuma, offered a detailed briefing from Pretoria on the regulations that will be gazetted tomorrow on the Covid-19 level 4 restrictions.

The biggest surprises from the briefing was government’s bombshell backtracking on the sale of all tobacco products. They also for some reason would still not allow the sale of books (except for “educational books”), lumping them in with the other forbidden fermented fruit, alcohol.

Read the recently released regulations as they will be gazetted in the document below (you can maximise the window to read it). If you do not see the embed, click or tap here.

Dlamini-Zuma started the briefing by reminding the public that the lockdown will not be ending, but merely be eased using a risk-adjusted strategy.

She said they had received more than 800 submissions from the business sector, along with thousands of responses from the general public, and she thanked them for the engagement.

Dlamini-Zuma said they had received a lot of opposition (from more than 2,000 people, although South Africa has about 11 million smokers) to reopening the sale of cigarettes. Government had therefore changed its mind since the weekend and decided to keep the ban on cigarette and all tobacco product sales in place because smoking was not just unhealthy but also a social activity and people sometimes shared cigarettes.

She said she was worried about “the sharing of zol” as saliva could be moved from person to person.

Dlamini-Zuma defended the alcohol ban again by pointing out that the lack of inebriated people was limiting people gathering, and was keeping them out of emergency rooms with the usual stabbings, beatings and shootings, especially on weekends.

You can follow the briefing as it happened below.

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