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Fired up: Smokers take protest against cigarette sales ban to Parliament

They are calling on government to allow them to purchase tobacco products after nine weeks of prohibition.

In Cape Town, a group of smokers have gathered at the gates of Parliament to protest against the ban on cigarette sales. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Dozens of smokers have gathered at the gates of Parliament to protest against the ban on cigarette sales.

They are calling on government to allow them to purchase tobacco products after nine weeks of prohibition.

Under level three lockdown, tobacco companies can export but local sales are still off-limits, a regulation that has driven the trade in illicit cigarettes.

Smokers have been campaigning for the right to buy cigarettes since the lockdown started on 27 March.

They have questioned the logic behind the ban and government has stated that the respiratory health risks associated with the habit was the reason for the decision.

There are legal challenges against the ban and now smokers have united outside Parliament.

They are picketing with placards which read “Hands off my rights, my culture” and 'Stop the ban'.

Some are even wearing masks which saying “We want to Zol”, adding that they were not criminals.

Ielhaan Alexander said that the prohibition was completely ridiculous.

She added that buying on the black market was extremely expensive, paying around R200 for a packet, which usually costs R40.

“There is nothing else I do, I am not a criminal. I don’t harass people, I do my job, I go home and enjoy my cigarettes. That is as simple as that. So, why must my right be taken away?”

Annemarie Beets from Bothasig, who belongs to the Facebook group Smokers Unite, with 31,000 members, said they'd had enough.

“What you did in the first place was unconstitutional, you should have never put bans on these things. It’s not about smokers. Think about the economy, the people that are losing their jobs. Think about the tax that is being lost because people are buying [illicit] cigarettes.”

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