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ANC Youth want ciggies banned again to help curb the spread of Covid-19

Keep them banned! This is the view of the ANC's youth task team.
Keep them banned! This is the view of the ANC's youth task team.

The ANC youth task team has criticised as ill-advised the decision to unban the sale of cigarettes under Level 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown scheduled to come into effect on Friday.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ANC’s national youth task team (NYTT) which has been running the affairs of the ANCYL since the disbandment of that structure last year, said it was concerned about the decision taken by the National Command Team which allows the sale, manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products under Level 4 regulations. 

The ANC NYTT described the decision as ill-advised, adding it could undo the work achieved in trying to flatten the curve. 

“Furthermore, cigarettes pose a great risk to lives and health of smokers and those who surround them who are affected by second hand smoke. Covid-19 is a pulmonary disease, meaning that it attacks the lungs. Tobacco consumption affects the respiratory system thus initiating most illnesses which affect the lungs,” it said.

The task team referenced the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has also noted the detrimental effects of smoking related to the Covid-19 virus, citing that most smokers suffer from impaired lung function and struggle with recovery. 

“Whilst we concede that 30-plus days might not permanently reverse the lung damage caused by years of smoking, we believe that the hiatus of all tobacco products is in the best interest of individuals and the country at large.

“According to British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa), 11 million people in SA are smokers. The communal behaviour of sharing cigarettes and pipes are common among certain segments of society, notably the townships and rural areas.

“This conduct increases the chances of transmission, as smokers often leave traces of the saliva on their items. Allowing this kind of behaviour at stage 4 of the phased plan has the potential to increase transmission dramatically, noting the number smokers in our country,” it said.

Asked by MPs on Monday about the rationale for unbanning the sale of cigarettes, health minister Zweli Mkhize said various other considerations had to be taken into account.

“We can’t debate the issue of cigarettes insofar as the health benefits are concerned, there are none,” he said.