Tobacco ban makes Cigarette the Most Sought After Illicit Drug in South Africa

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As part of the South African  Government’s efforts  to protect citizen’s health during the yet to abate coronavirus pandemic, President Cyril Ramphosa banned the sale of all tobacco products in late March. The ban gave tobacco illegal drug status in South Africa. The tobacco’s market in South Africa is estimated to have about 9 million smokers.

Last week, the North High Court dismissed a case brought to it by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) which was seeking to get government to overturn its decision to ban the sale of cigarette and declare it an essential service.

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The anguish of a social media user who described herself as ‘desperate mama’ went viral recently. She drifted off topic amidst a discussion on homeschooling during lockdown, and wrote:

“Does anyone know where to get illegal cigarette? I just need a few. I’m desperate.”

Ramaphosa, however, mentioned yesterday, Wednesday, June 1st,  during a virtual imbizo (a word for meeting called by a leader in South Africa) that the ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products during the lockdown will eventually be lifted. Ramaphosa said the nation would not be in lockdown forever and that while the ban on cigarette remains in place, it will with time be lifted.

As reported by IOL, a listener asked the president about the unbanning of alcohol sales and lifting of curfews, to which he responded,”It was felt that alcohol should be lifted at alert level three.”

“The rationale was that we could not keep a number of sectors closed forever. But at the same after we lifted the ban we started seeing the ugly side of our social lives where there has been excessive abuse of alcohol which has led to ills such as gender based violence and road accidents.” He added.

Some analysts have said, the removal of cigarettes from all mainstream outlets has made it become the most sought after illicit drug in South Africa, more profitable than cocaine and heroin.

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