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SADPI: Banning alcohol & tobacco sales harmful to those dependant on them

SADPI acknowledges that while the lockdown is fundamentally sound and in line with global best practice, government has erred with the ban.

Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - The temporary ban of alcohol and tobacco sales during the 21-day lockdown is bad news for those who are dependent users, discriminates the poor and is an opportune window for black market sales.

This is according to the South African Drug Policy Initiative (SADPI), a voluntary association that advocates for the legal regulation of all drugs.

Police Minister Bheki announced no alcohol or cigarettes will be allowed to be sold during the 21-day lockdown period announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curb the spread of coronavirus in South Africa.

Cigarette and alcohol shelves at some supermarkets have been replaced with ordinary food items during this time.

SADPI acknowledges on Tuesday that while the lockdown is fundamentally sound and in line with global best practice, government has erred with the ban.

"This ad hoc law fails to adequately consider the harms that its enforcement will do to the many vulnerable individuals who suffer from substance use disorders," the association said.

"Especially in the case of alcohol, many of those with substance use disorders cannot simply stop using drugs. If they do, they risk developing a range of symptoms including psychosis, seizures and ultimately death. Most people who have problematic drug use rely on more than one drug to get them through the day. Therefore, someone who is addicted to say, heroin, but can get by with alcohol, cannabis or tobacco, will not be able to cope unless they break the law and buy those drugs on the black market.

It said while those who had the resources were able to buy and stock up before the lockdown, users with less means were expected to confine themselves in cramped, hot, poorly ventilated shacks and houses. And they have to do without drugs that are essential for some and provide some relief for others who find it difficult to cope with the dire situation they find themselves in.

"This demand invites criminal elements to meet this need by increasing the supply of contraband alcohol and tobacco."

SADPI suggests the ban should be reversed as soon as possible.

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