#CoronavirusSA: Hard to say when cigarette ban will be lifted – Ramaphosa

0
437
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image: Twitter
President Cyril Ramaphosa says it’s difficult to determine when the ban on the sale of cigarettes will be lifted, but that the progression of the Covid-19 pandemic and further information about the nature of the virus will play a role in the decision.

His remarks in this regard came in a written reply to a parliamentary question posed by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP, Dean Macpherson.

“At this stage, it is difficult to determine when the ban on the sale of tobacco and related products will be lifted. This will depend on such factors as the progression of the disease in South Africa, the readiness of our health systems and evolving knowledge on the nature and impact of the virus itself,” Ramaphosa said in his response.

It was dated May 22, but submitted to Macpherson on Friday. Macpherson had asked the president both when the ban would be lifted, and what the scientific basis was for introducing it on March 27, when South Africa began a nationwide lockdown in response to the global pandemic.

Ramaphosa replied that the decision was taken “after careful consideration, not only of the submissions received, but also the relevant medical literature focusing inter alia on the effects of smoking on public and individual health, especially in the face of a respiratory illness such as Covid-19”.

He added that more petitions and more medical literature were considered after his announcement on national television on April 23, that the ban would be lifted on May 1.

“After my initial announcement on 23 April 2020, following representations that were made by various organisations and individuals and further consideration of relevant medical studies and advice, a different position was ultimately adopted by the National Coronavirus Command Council and thereafter by cabinet before the regulations were promulgated.”

“After my initial announcement on 23 April 2020, following representations that were made by various organisations and individuals and further consideration of relevant medical studies and advice, a different position was ultimately adopted by the National Coronavirus Command Council and thereafter by cabinet before the regulations were promulgated.”

Cooperative governance minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced on April 29 that the ban would remain in place during alert level 3, which is currently in effect.

It is not known when the country would move to level 2.

Macpherson pointed out that Ramaphosa’s reply appeared to contradict a statement by minister in the presidency, Jackson Mthembu that government planned to remove the ban as part of level 2 restrictions.

Macpherson said Ramaphosa’s response further made plain that the government had no firm scientific basis for the ban.

“Instead of providing any shred of empirical data, as the question requested, the president responded that the ban was based on ‘the submissions received [and] relevant medical literature focusing inter alia on the effects of smoking on public and individual health, especially in the face of a respiratory illness such as Covid-19’.

“President Ramaphosa’s failure to produce any evidence is a clear indication that there wasn’t any empirical evidence to support the ban in the first place.”

The government is facing two legal challenges to the ban, one from the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) and a second from British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA).

The application by FITA will be heard by a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court on June 9 and 10.

The Western Cape High Court has agreed to treat the application by BATSA as urgent and it has been enrolled for June 22. BATSA has listed Dlamini-Zuma as the first respondent and Ramaphosa as the second. It said it sought no particular relief from the president, except court costs if he were to oppose the application for the ban to be set aside.

BATSA said in its founding affidavit that every attempt by the company to engage with government was rebuffed.

African News Agency