Smoking can worsen the virus effects
That was one of the findings presented by a panel of health experts during a virtual University of KwaZulu-Natal Data Breakfast yesterday.
And smokers were urged to give up the habit as the ban remains in place.
Professor Mosa Moshabela, an expert in public health, said the ban was to protect smokers from Covid-19, with evidence showing they were more likely than non-smokers to progress to a critical stage of the illness.
He said the ban would help reduce the number of cases.
Dr Ronel Sewpaul, a statistician from the Human Sciences Research Council, said two surveys indicated the majority of smokers who had participated in the survey had not been able to buy cigarettes during the lockdown.
Dr Yussuf Saloojee, former executive director of the National Council Against Smoking, said most South Africans bought “loosies” and did not have enough money to buy a packet, so would not be in a position to stockpile.
Regarding sugar-filled products which could be linked to diabetes, he said while the World Health Organization had recommended people stop smoking, and only to cut down on sugar: “Sugar is an essential part of the diet. Cigarettes cause illness and death.”
Saloojee said the lockdown provided an opportunity for smokers to quit the habit, that the benefits from doing so would be immediate and important should they get Covid-19.
“If people smoke and contract the virus, they are more likely to have severe symptoms. The benefits from stopping smoking are immediate.
“It is difficult to give up, but not impossible,” said Saloojee..
“Withdrawal takes up to 10 days although the craving and hunger can last up to a month.”
He said this would save the country health costs in the long term, and those savings would outweigh the current tax lost during lockdown.
Of 84 countries currently in Covid-19 lockdown, four countries have banned smoking, the others being Israel, Botswana and India.The Independent on Saturday