During a briefing by the `National Command Council (NCC) on Wednesday 29 April, Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that while many more products had been added to the list of essential goods available during the lockdown, cigarettes and alcohol were still not on there.

Also read Alcohol or tobacco and related products not be allowed under level 4 restrictions

Alcohol and cigarettes would not be allowed under level 4 restrictions, the government said on Wednesday night.

On top of this, for "health reasons", cigarettes, tobacco and related products - including vaping, dagga  - would also not be allowed.

Yusuf Abramjee miss quoted Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring that cigarettes would be available for purchase during Level 4, a process of public review on the proposed measures determined that many still felt that tobacco products should be banned, with over 2 000 remarks submitted on the matter.

Cigarettes pose a health risk
Dlamini-Zuma cited the health risks associated with smoking and the sharing of cigarettes as the reasons for the revised decision, and said that alcohol would remain prohibited for the foreseeable future.

“Government took that into consideration and debated the merits and looked at it and decided that we must continue as we are when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco products and related, that we should not open up the sale,” she said.
“Besides the effect itself on a person’s lungs, the way tobacco is shared does not allow for social distancing. The virus will be shared among them.”

“There were lots of health-related reasons. COVID-19 related reasons why the people said we shouldn’t open on tobacco. So the sale of tobacco [and] tobacco-related products like e-cigarettes are not allowed.”

Tobacco lobbyists expected to revive legal fight
Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) had threatened to take the matter to court before Ramaphosa allowed the sale of cigarettes in his adress on Thursday 23 April, but subsequently dropped the case.

Tax Justice South Africa had said earlier in April that the ban of cigarettes was costing the country R35 million a day in surrendered sin tax, and the ban has resulted in the astronomical rise of illicit trading of cigarettes.

It remains to be seen whether tobacco lobbyists will pursue a legal avenue now that an about u-turn has been performed by government.

This is a developing story.