S. African Lawmakers Support Ban On Cigarette Sale Amid COVID-19
South African lawmakers on Saturday threw their weight behind the government to continue a ban on the sale of tobacco products as the COVID-19 pandemic was raging in the country.
This came after the Pretoria High Court ruled on Friday in favor of a government decision to ban the sale of tobacco products as part of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Responding to the ruling, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs said it welcomed the court ruling to dismiss the application by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association against the ban.
The judgement “is welcomed as it promotes and protects the right to life and the right of access to the healthcare facilities,” Committee Chairperson Faith Muthambi said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.
The ban, along with other lockdown regulations, was not meant to be punitive, but for the protection of all the people living in South Africa, said Muthambi.
The sale of tobacco products has been banned since March 15 when Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma declared a national state of disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As for the ban on cigarette sale, the minister cited health concerns over smokers who are more likely to succumb to the virus.
The lockdown was necessary as South Africa needed enough time to put measures in place to cope with the rise of the infected cases, Muthambi said.
Although these regulations seemed harsh and many felt that they infringed on their rights and were unconstitutional, there was no other way to protect the people than to curtail their movement to flatten the curve and to keep them safe, he said.
Also on Saturday, the government said it has been vindicated by the court ruling.
“We also wish to remind South Africans that all the interventions that were made, including the ban on selling of cigarettes, were all aimed at saving lives,” government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.
The government calls on all South Africans – both at the workplace and on an individual level, to adhere to the health protocol while the economy is reopened, said Williams.