SA lockdown: Petition calls for ‘unfair and spiteful’ cigarettes ban to be lifted

With the ban on cigarettes during lockdown, smokers scramble for loose cigarettes. Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)

With the ban on cigarettes during lockdown, smokers scramble for loose cigarettes. Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 7, 2020


Johannesburg - A petition calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to reverse a ban on the sale of cigarettes has garnered over 4 800 signatures in less than 24 hours since it was started. 

The petition was launched by Bev Maclean on the platform on Monday. 

Almost two weeks ago, Ramaphosa announced that the country would be going into a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

He had earlier declared South Africa a disaster state just days after the country confirmed its first case of the virus. 

Since, more than 1 600 people in the country have been infected and 12 people have been killed by the virus. 

Globally, the virus has claim over 76 000 lives since January, and more than 1.3 million people around the world are infected. Global recoveries from the virus stand at just over 290 000. 

In her petition, Maclean said it was “unfair and spiteful” to give smokers just one day's notice about a cigarette ban during the nationwide lockdown. 

“Withdrawal of nicotine has serious effects on a lot of people and is especially elevated because of the stress and fear happening in our country.

“It causes, amongst others, depression and anxiety and because we are in lockdown, most people will lash out and maybe even hurt loved ones unintentionally.

“Lifting the ban would, amongst other things save jobs, bring more money into the state coffers, stimulate the economy, and decrease the psychological impact on us South Africans of the lockdown period,” she said.

Maclean’s petition was addressed to the president, as well as the South African Police Service. 

Just last week, the Western Cape Government announced that residents in that province would be able to purchase cigarettes with their groceries. 

A couple of days later, that move was shot down by Police Minister Bheki Cele, who said there were no provincial regulations, and that the Western Cape Government had to adhere to regulations as signed by Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. 

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has since written to Ramaphosa, expressing that the regulations were vague in some instances. 

Maclean meanwhile, said to the president: “Please don’t turn us into criminals, Mr President. The measure of a man is what he does with power."

Alysha Buckle from Cape Town wrote: "I don’t smoke & I’m still signing because I think it’s completely unnecessary to ban buying smokes. It doesn’t affect behaviour the way alcohol does. & people’s health choices are their business. Smoking helps with stress & anxiety, so I think people should be allowed to buy smokes when buying groceries".

Jovana Simovic from Johannesburg wrote: "I think what you're doing is wrong keeping people away from smoking, many people that quit cold turkey get sick a lot faster and easier so you are making them a bigger risk to getting the virus".


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