President Ramaphosa’s evidence for the cigarette ban goes up in smoke

In an incredible turn of events, President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that he has no empirical evidence to support the continued ban of cigarettes and other tobacco products under the current level 3 lockdown regulations.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), in a written parliamentary question,  asked the President “[on] what empirical evidence did the National Coronavirus Command Council [relied] to collectively (a) ban the sale of tobacco products during the national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19”. Instead of providing any shred of empirical data, as the question requested, the President responded that the ban was based on “the submissions received [and] relevant medical literature focusing inter alia on the effects of smoking on public and individual health, especially in the face of a respiratory illness such as Covid-19”.

President Ramaphosa’s failure to produce any evidence is a clear indication that there wasn’t any empirical evidence to support the ban in the first place. The continued punting of submissions received is also ludicrous given the fact that government only received 454 public submissions in favour of the tobacco ban.

When asked about the date the government envisaged that the ban on the sale of tobacco products would be lifted, the President indicated that “[at] this stage, it is difficult to determine when the ban on the sale of tobacco and related products will be lifted”.

This answer from the President is in stark contrast to Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu who said the smoking ban would be lifted in level 2.

While the government continues to tie itself in knots over the ban and criminalisation of smoking, it is evident that the ban has nothing to do with the impact of smoking on public and individual health, and has seemingly everything to do with whims and wills Minister Dlamini-Zuma and those in the illicit trade who would benefit from such a ban.

Government cannot continue to mislead the public and Parliament on the reasons for the nonsensical ban on tobacco products.