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Press Release

Lockdown cigarette ban is backfiring and should be lifted

Tuesday 7 April 2020 – THE lockdown ban on cigarettes is backfiring badly and endangering millions of South Africans it is supposed to protect, Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) reveals today.

Calling for an urgent lifting of the ban, TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “The ban is dangerous in so many ways: it is encouraging movement, encouraging looting, impoverishing people who are paying sky-high prices and impoverishing the country when it needs the money most.

“All this is occurring when the only stated objective is to limit the movement of people.

“Because 11 million smokers can’t buy cigarettes in the stores they visit for food, they are forced to seek them elsewhere and spread Covid-19 unnecessarily.

“Every day of the lockdown, the nation is losing more than R35 million in lost excise duties on cigarettes alone, money that is desperately needed by government to fight this crisis.

“Instead that money is going to criminals who are charging inflated prices on the black market and exploiting the most vulnerable.

“Enough is enough. Now is the time to correct the errors in the rules before they do any more damage.”

SA Police have reported the looting of several liquor stores around the country, as well as multiple discoveries of large caches of cigarettes.

Mr Abramjee, who is distributing food aid in Gauteng through Operation SA, says: “We sense the threat of even more disorder if the public see lockdown rules as unreasonable.

“The argument for banning alcohol is that the public’s consumption makes it harder for police to do their job – although the looting highlights other problems.

“But the same argument cannot be made about cigarettes. In fact, depriving smokers of cigarettes can increase tensions and the tobacco ban will only make it harder for police to do their job.

“This lockdown is vital, but must be reasonable to be effective. All the evidence so far is that the cigarette ban should be relaxed.”