In addition, she said a report by the Human Sciences Research Council indicated that 88% of smokers were not able to buy cigarettes during level 5 lockdown, suggesting that the temporary ban was effective in reducing access to cigarettes and usage thereof.
She said decisions regarding level 4 restrictions had to be taken in a manner aimed at protecting the rights to life and health care.
She said the health-care system, including health workers, had to be protected and prevented from being overburdened and overwhelmed.
“In pursuit of these objectives, and after careful consideration and discussion, it was deemed necessary to continue the temporary ban on the sale of tobacco products under the level 4 lockdown.”
Dlamini-Zuma said as tobacco use was known to lead to respiratory diseases, and Covid-19 primarily affects the respiratory system, it was logical to proceed on the basis that tobacco use might lead to increased risks in relation to Covid-19.
Dlamini-Zuma said the available research showed that the severity of Covid-19 outcomes was greater in smokers than non-smokers.
“Smokers have higher ICU admissions, higher need for ventilation and a higher mortality rate than non-smokers.”
She said tobacco use also increased behavioural risks associated with Covid-19 transmissions.
“In poorer communities, people are more likely to share cigarettes, hookah pipes, zols, skyf, and/or lighters and matchboxes. This can increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission in communal and social settings due to lack of social distancing and sharing infected saliva.”
She said the practice of puffing and sharing “roll your own” tobacco products was common in lower socio-economic communities.
She said given the short and long-term benefits of stopping smoking, it was decided that a temporary ban on the sale of tobacco products would be likely to reduce the risk associated with Covid-19 transmissions and severity of disease.
“Further, based on the experience during level 5 lockdown, it was considered likely that continuing to temporarily ban the sale of tobacco products during level 4 would be effective in reducing the number of people who had access to these products.”