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By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


Tobacco organisation calls for unbanning of cigarettes under Level 3

The organisation expressed their disappointment on the tobacco ban and also called for an inquiry into the links between illicit tobacco traders and high-profile politicians.


The South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) called on the government to scrap its decision to ban cigarette sales during Level 3 lockdown.

The organisation also called for an inquiry into the links between illicit tobacco traders and high-profile politicians.

While addressing the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the sale of tobacco products would remain prohibited in alert Level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking.

“It’s very clear that there are other interests at play now,” said SATTA chairperson Ntando Shadrack Sibisi, a tobacco farmer from Mpumalanga, who is also president of the Black Tobacco Farmers’ Association (BTFA).

“Government’s questionable health reasons for the continued ban actually paved the way for tobacco bootleggers to make millions of rands during the first phase of the lockdown, and they have now been given a blank cheque to make more millions until some unknown point in the future.

“As tobacco farmers, producers and manufacturers who are fully compliant with the law and respect proper processes, we are disgusted. This is not what we expected of a government for the people, by the people… that it should turn its back on an entire agricultural sector and give carte-blanche to the bootleggers.”

Sibisi said the government’s argument around smoking and public health under Covid-19 was wearing particularly thin.

“Somehow, government has very selectively relied on non-peer reviewed studies to create its current-day version of ‘Covid-19 affirmation’ – creating the impression that smoking causes Covid-19.”

Sibisi pointed out that the legal tobacco industry was highly regulated and complies with regulations to provide smokers with information on packs about the dangers of smoking.

“Government cannot make up its own evidence as it goes along to justify a continued ban.

“The irrationality behind both the health and economic reasons for the continued ban of the legal tobacco industry does not make any sense and begs the question: is there a more sinister agenda behind this decision?”

Sibisi said it was time government came clean on the links between illicit tobacco traders and high-profile individuals in politics.

“Let’s follow the money. Let’s see who has benefited financially from the ban on cigarettes, let’s see who they’re connected with, so the people of South Africa understand the real motives behind the ban on cigarette sales during the lockdown.

“Consumers need to know why they have risked arrest, paid ridiculously inflated prices, and only had access to inferior products because of government’s ridiculous and deviant attitude to the lockdown and smoking.

“As the legal tobacco industry, we will continue to fight against regulations based on prejudice and moral posturing as well as advance the rights of consumers to exercise freedom of choice.”

BTFA also expressed their disappointment where it claimed that the government had “done a deal with the devil” as the ban on tobacco would continue under Level 3.

“We struggle to find words to explain how disappointed we are. Our farms are dying, and our livelihoods with them. An entire black-owned, transformed sector of the agricultural economy is going to die. And it is entirely the government’s fault,” the association said in a statement.

(Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa)

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