Has the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales forced you to quit the habit? While some say the ban which came into effect with the nationwide lockdown in March has forced them to kick the habit, others have taken to the illicit trade to get their hands on a fix.

As the nationwide lockdown enters week 7, there’s still uncertainty as to when the ban on alcohol and tobacco sales will be lifted.

The lockdown has resulted in addicts suffering from withdrawal symptoms. However, for some, it seems like a blessing in disguise.

Johannesburg resident, Ronald Pillay, has now kicked the habit after many years of smoking and drinking on a regular basis.

“I think the lockdown has definitely contributed towards me giving up drinking and smoking. I think being in isolation stops you from smoking and also during this time, I did have a baby with my wife and this has been a contributing factor because I’ve spent more time with the child now and help my wife with duties to keep myself busy and not worry about drinking and smoking. The other factor is that the money I used to spend on drinking and smoking I use it to get baby stuff for the child.”

Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that cigarette sales would be allowed under Level 4 of the lockdown. However, that was not to be as the government made a u-turn on the decision just a few days later citing health concerns.

 

The extension of the ban caused a public uproar, with thousands of smokers lashing out at government. However, for Sikhulule Ngxowa from Bredasdorp in the Western Cape, the extension of the ban has forced him to quit smoking.

“We were all excited that on the 1st of May tobacco will be back on the shelves, but when that didn’t happen I bought cigarettes from the black market. I’m not quite sure which products were used to produce those cigarettes. So, I decided to stop smoking completely and I am no longer going to smoke ever again.”

Ngxowa also says while kicking the habit has been challenging he has managed to find ways to keep his mind off smoking.

“The first week I was struggling to sleep because my body was used to smoking before I sleep. So, that was quite a challenge. Now, I’m saving quite a lot of money because in a week I used to smoke more than 5 packs of cigarettes. What helps me is that I have reached the decision that I no longer want to smoke. When I feel like smoking I eat sweets or chips. I also use one of those bubblegum products and I will chew one in the morning and it will help me throughout the day.”

While some South Africans have managed to stop their old habits, this isn’t the case for everyone. Sarfaraaz Nakooda from Durban says he is not fazed by the ban.

“It was a silly decision by the government and it also just caught everybody by surprise. We didn’t have a chance to prepare and buy extra cigarettes and we were also very uncertain that the ban was going to be lifted. This uncertainty is really ridiculous. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people that are willing to give up smoking during this time. You can’t expect people to just wake up, all of a sudden and decide to stop smoking . It doesn’t work like that.”

Nakooda, like thousands of other smokers, says he’s now forced to support the illicit trade to lay his hands on cigarettes.

“Unfortunately, this has now forced me to turn to the black market and I had to purchase cigarettes from the black market and paying double the price. Where I would usually pay R45 for a pack of 20 cigarettes, now I am paying about R70  to R90 for the same pack of cigarettes. Which is ridiculous. The government is very, very silly because they are not making money on taxes due to the sale of cigarettes ban. They think that the ban on cigarettes will not allow people to get cigarettes, but cigarettes are still being sold and are readily available in every part of the country.”

Registered counsellor, Banetsi Mphunga, says the ban poses severe health risks for those who have been regularly consuming alcohol and tobacco products.

Mphunga adds that people who have suddenly had to stop their habits are now at a high risk of depression.

“Some people are currently experiencing anxiety relating to not having consumed the substance and their chances of being diagnosed with full depression are heightened. Now, if the things they use to suppress their emotions are not being sold, they are exposing them to this predisposition of psychiatric issues and physical issues as well.”

Legal actions against government over cigarettes

Last week, the British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) says it has taken a decision not to pursue any legal action against the government over the ban on the sale of cigarettes.

The decision comes after BATSA received a letter from ministers in the National Command Council.

“We are convinced that by working together (with government) we can find a better solution that works for all South Africans and removes the threat of criminal sanction from 11 million tobacco consumers in the country,” said BATSA in a statement.

FITA files court papers over cigarette ban

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) filed a court application challenging government’s ban on the sale of cigarettes after President Cyril Ramaphosa came out in defence of the decision.

FITA takes government to court over sale of cigarettes ban: