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South African smokers turn to rooibos leaves

Most smokers have been able to purchase cigarettes during the lockdown period.

Most smokers have been able to purchase cigarettes during the lockdown period.

Published May 20, 2020

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CAPE TOWN -

With the ongoing ban on cigarette and tobacco sales, desperate South African smokers have turned to smoking rooibos leaves.

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Since the start of the national lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa made it illegal to buy and sell cigarettes. However; locals have found alternative methods to feed their habit.

“Smoking tea doesn't quite satisfy the craving, but tricks the mind well enough, so the transition to smoking tea was fairly easy,” a Melville resident told Business Insider SA.

“I smoked plain rooibos, without adding anything to it. It burns surprisingly well, like an actual cigarette would. But it's quite difficult to roll because the tea is so dry,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Professor Keertan Dheda of the Centre for Lung Infection and Immunity said he’s unaware of the safety of smoking tea.

“Smoking tea will result in the inhalation of several substances, including caffeine and particulate matter, which is likely to be harmful in the long run.

“Chronic inhalation of particulate matter is often associated with subversion of immune responses and structural lung damage and therefore, as a general rule, I would advise against it," said Keertan.

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