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Booze & cigarette bans to stay throughout lockdown - government

According to government, the bans on these products will remain in place throughout the lockdown period and at this stage, with over 380,000 positives recorded, there's no telling when lockdown will be declared over.

Image: 123rf

JOHANNESBURG - It could be months before you're able to step into a store and legally buy alcohol or tobacco if a tweet by the government is anything to go by.

According to government, the bans on these products will remain in place throughout the lockdown period and at this stage, with over 380,000 positives recorded, there's no telling when lockdown will be declared over.

"The ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarette will remain in place throughout the lockdown period. The purpose is to save lives and protect the health and well-being of our people," the account tweeted.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) has demanded that government clarify the tweet.

"This statement contradicts government’s previous position on this issue, with inter alia President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Jackson Mthembu both stating on a number of occasions publicly that it was only a matter of time before the ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products was lifted," the association said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"The statement issued today by government creates the impression that government has no intention of lifting the ban on the sale of cigarettes under any level during the lockdown period.

"That position, of course, will have severe consequences for the fiscus, the industry as a whole, and all those who make a living from the industry."

Cigarettes have been banned since lockdown was first declared in March, while there was a brief reprieve for alcohol when the ban on sales was lifted in June and then imposed again in July.

Meanwhile, the battle to have the sale of both alcohol and tobacco reinstated are still playing out in the courts.

In the cigarettes battle, government has accused the Fita of pursuing the tobacco products ban on sales mainly to protect their monetary gains.

Fita has cited the economic impact as part of its argument on why the decision should be reversed. It also cited as equally important the legal ramifications of the issue, saying that the sales ban failed the rationality test.

The Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI) has said it would approach the Northern Gauteng High Court on 18 August in a bid to have the ban on the sale and consumption of wine in restaurants set aside.

The organisation's Francois Rossouw believed the strict regulations were arbitrary and irrational.

It remains to be seen whether either of these cases will result in the bans being lifted anytime soon.

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