The bans on tobacco products and alcohol sales announced in March, sadly included safer alternatives such as e-cigarettes and snus. Naturally, this had angered many public health experts and vaping advocates. Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) chief executive Asanda Gcoyi, had reiterated that treating cigarettes and safer alternatives in the same manner poses a significant problem.
“Our findings suggest that the ban on cigarette sales is failing in what it was supposed to do. While the original intention of the ban was to support public health, the current disadvantages of the ban may well outweigh the advantages.”
On top of this, in line with arguments by international health experts, Gcoyi had added that another concern was vapers going back to smoking or purchasing vape products on the black market. “My other concern is the illicit market. People are buying vape juice from shops we know nothing about, we hear it’s available at spaza shops, stories that people are mixing juices at home, which is extremely dangerous, because they are just mixing things and the environment is not right.”
And sadly, a study conducted by the University of Cape Town, had proven these predictions to be right. Economic scholars Corné van Walbeek, Samantha Filby and Kirsten van der Zee, surveyed over 16,000 people on how they were being affected by the tobacco ban.
“Our findings suggest that the ban on cigarette sales is failing in what it was supposed to do,” reported the researchers. “While the original intention of the ban was to support public health, the current disadvantages of the ban may well outweigh the advantages. Smokers are buying cigarettes in large quantities, despite the lockdown, and unusual brands are becoming prevalent.”
Tobacco and alcohol retailers reopen
Finally, as the South African government started easing lockdown regulations, tobacco and alcohol retailers have been permitted to reopen, as long as hygiene and safety measures are still in place. As a result of this, queues of eager smokers were seen waiting outside these shops.
While tobacco sales have been forbidden since the beginning of lockdown in March, alcohol purchases were tentatively re-authorised in June and then banned again as a result of a spike in Covid cases the following month.
“Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted, the suspension of the sale of alcohol will be lifted subject to certain restrictions,” said President Cyril Ramaphosahe before reopening, adding that significant progress had been made against the disease.
Read Further: BBC