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By Amanda Watson

News Editor

Gimme a (smoke) break

The insanity of banning one small portion of the population – between six to seven million – out of 59 million people is the stuff of legends.

So, the so-called “constitutional right” to smoking is being touted as a reason again by lawyers in the British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) court attempt to have the tobacco product ban lifted.

And, try as I might, I cannot find any direct reference to the “right to smoke” in the 17th, and current, amendment of the constitution.

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Looking under freedom of choice, it only covers culture, education and political choices. There is a limited freedom of expression – oft confused with freedom of speech – which doesn’t mention smoking at all.

Everyone does have the right to freedom of association, which only means we smokers can hang out with others of our ilk. Which is taboo anyway under current regulations and, seriously, who wants to catch the coof anyway?

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) tried – and failed – and now it’s going to try and convince the Supreme Court of Appeals of the “right to smoke”.

All due respect to them for taking up the fight, but Fita and Batsa are missing the mark completely, in my humble opinion.

Notwithstanding the incredible depth of my legal know-how gained from Twitter and many years of Ally McBeal, it makes no sense to me not to argue the R38 million a day lost in tobacco sales excise. Or the decision which feels as if there is no small measure of insanity involved.

Honestly, if smoking had been permitted, there would have been no need for the IMF loan whatsoever.

One point was raised in court yesterday: far more positive results would have been achieved if the price of smokes had been raised and that money put into a special fund to help in the Covid-19 fight.

At least then the fiscus would have its R70 billion it will never recover from the past few months – and more billions for the tenderpreneurs to rob the country blind.

And quite frankly, yes, smoking is disgusting. It smells, it creates litter, it has adverse health effects, like emphysema – drowning in your own lungs is a terrible way to go.

The argument can also be made for cholesterol causing fats – which killed my grandfather, by the way, by narrowing the arteries in his neck until his brain was starved of oxygen – or sugar,
or obesity.

It seems to me it would be far more beneficial to force people to exercise. Certainly, it would be the motivation I needed to get my fat ass out of the chair I spend 12 hours a day in.

It’s not just smoking which is the threat, it’s the other comorbidities (will we ever hear the end of this damn word) such as kidney disease (check: there is no pain like a kidney infection or
stones), diabetes (clear), heart conditions (probably clear) and hypertension (I’m a journalist, this is par for the course).

Okay, enough with the brackets. But you see where I’m going.

The insanity of banning one small portion of the population – between six to seven million – out of 59 million people is the stuff of legends.

The other side of the ban, of course, is with only finding the occasional box of ciggies in the street, now each drag of poison is treasured, sucked deep into the lungs until it bites, and the cigarette is never put down to burn away.

Now, it’s smoked until the filter screams for mercy, so we’re sucking whatever fumes it produces into our lungs.

Thanks, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, for all your help.

If I do pick up something terrible, do come and wave goodbye at my funeral.

Amanda Watson.

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