First they prohibited alcohol sales, and now, they’ve come for our tobacco enthusiasts. South Africa looks like it is using the upcoming lockdown period to put us all into rehab. As confirmed by the government last night, cigarettes will now be treated like all non-essential goods: Meaning they can’t be purchased in-store.
Lockdown South Africa: Can you still buy cigarettes? Doesn’t look like it…
It’s a bitter blow for millions of South Africans. With vape stores (for e-cigarettes) closing nationwide, the alternative has also been stopped at source – but the Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) are seeking an exemption from the rules, arguing that they provide an “essential service”.
“We are seeking clarity over whether vape stores are to be included in those essential premises that can remain open, given their vital role in helping people to stop smoking. This is particularly important during such an unprecedented public health crisis.”
No ale, no cigarettes: It’s all gone up in smoke
Thursday marks the last day before we enter a three-week lockdown period, and emergency measures have prompted panic buying among the South African public. Trolleys are filling with booze, and as we countdown to midnight, people are stocking up on other items – but the stores will remain open for the next few weeks, it’s important to remember that.
The general argument from the government is that our stores and markets must focus all their energy on providing the essentials, such as food, drinks and medical supplies. Cigarettes simply do not come down as an “essential”, despite what a large number of our compatriots would say.
Lockdown could be a ‘drag’
Also, given that the coronavirus attacks the lungs and respiratory system and is spreading across South Africa at a rapid rate, the sale of smokes could be seen as counter-productive in our war with COVID-19. Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel has clarified the government’s position on the matter:
“Traders will be limited ‘only to sell the essential good that are set out in the regulations’. We have a 21-day lockdown, it’s not a year, it’s not two years. It’s a 21-day lockdown to try to see if we can contain this. We have to contain the spread of the virus, we have an enormous population of immunocompromised persons.
“On the items that people can buy, obviously we wanted to keep the list as short and simple as possible so that we can do a quick turn around at shops so that people spend the minimum amount of time there, and travel as infrequently to the shops as possible. Cigarettes is not a basic good.”