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Mthembu: Cigarettes sales will be allowed under level 2

‘I can assure you after we’ve been out of level 3, I don’t see the ban on the sale of cigarettes continuing,' said Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.

FILE: Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu on Wednesday assured South Africans that the ban on the sale of cigarettes was only for level 3 lockdown, telling Eyewitness News that he did not see it continuing beyond that level.

Earlier this week, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that the ban was implemented to protect public health and decrease the potential strain on the country’s health system.

On Wednesday, government filed its court papers in a case brought against it by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), which was pushing for the ban to be lifted.

Ban on tobacco sales: Inside the govt’s court papers

Mthembu said it the ban on the sale of cigarettes was only for level 3.

“The ban on cigarettes, it’s just at this level we are in. We don’t know how many weeks we will be at this level. I can assure you after we’ve been out of level 3, I don’t see the ban on the sale of cigarettes continuing,” Mthembu said.

He said government would be taking input from members of the public on that and other issues.

“Those representations will not apply for level 3 because indeed the president has given us all marching orders as it relates to level 2,” he said.

Ministers in various clusters were expected to brief the media later on Thursday on regulations under level 3.

WATCH: Infections rock mines: COVID-19 Situation Desk - 27 May PM

BAN ON SALE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS ‘SUCCESSFUL’

Meanwhile, Dlamini-Zuma said the ban on the sale of tobacco products during level 5 of the national lockdown was a success.

In her submission of government’s reasons for the ban, she explained that research showed that the majority of South Africa’s millions of smokers could not access the products.

As part of its court application against the ban, FITA also demanded that the minister provided it with minutes and records of meetings where decisions were made and the reasons.

While the government went to great lengths to explain the link between smoking and COVID-19 transmission, it also did not hide that its ultimate intention was to have less South Africans smoking.

Results of two Human Sciences Research Council online surveys were used in the document to explain that 88% of people were unable to access cigarettes during the lockdown, “suggesting that the ban was successful”.

The government cited the possible burden on the health system that smokers could cause if they contracted COVID-19, and longer benefits of quitting altogether in the interest of their health.

Dlamini-Zuma acknowledged that there were sales of illicit cigarettes during level 5 lockdown saying, however, that had been a problem locally and globally for decades and was not a result of government action.

FITA argued that the illicit market problem was greater than government estimated.

The organisation also highlighted the loss of revenue to the economy due to the cigarettes sale ban.

The matter is likely to be heard in court on 9 June.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.