Cigarette ban should remain, argues ANC Youth League
If it were up to the ruling party's youth brigade, South African smokers would continue to suffer.
The prohibition of all tobacco products, including cigarettes, should remain in place beyond 1 May, according to the African National Congress’ Youth League (ANCYL).
As South African smokers await the unbanning of cigarette sales, following the controversial prohibition which has been in place, under regulations informed by the Disaster Management Act, since the national lockdown was first implemented on 27 March, the ruling party’s youth brigade has voiced its serious concerns.
The ANC Youth League, which, for the past year, has teetered on the brink of collapse, announced its dismay on Freedom Day, noting that while it welcomed government’s staggered approach to easing regulations, the sale of tobacco products would only harm the fight against COVID-19.
ANCYL: Decision to allow cigarette sales “ill-advised”
In an official statement, the Task Team, responsible for turning things around at the embattled Youth League, described government’s decision to unban the sale of tobacco products as “ill-advised”, saying:
“The ANC NYTT views this decision as ill-advised and could negatively affect the immense work achieved in trying to flatten the curve.
Furthermore cigarettes pose a great risk to lives and health of smokers and those that surround them who are affected by second hand.”
The controversial ban on tobacco products, which is expected to be lifted when the nation moves from level 5 lockdown to level 4 on Friday 1 May, has been heavily criticised by both smokers and tax watchdogs alike. While the qualms of the former may be obvious, serious concerns regarding the illicit trade, and subsequent loss of revenue as a result of unpaid excise tax, have painted a grim financial picture.
Illicit trade flourishes under lockdown
According to Tax Justice South Africa, the cigarette ban has cost South Africa over R35 million a day; funds which could be allocated to the country’s healthcare response.
Addressing the issue of illicit trade, the ANCYL argued that it was the duty of law enforcement agencies, together with the department of trade and industry, to crack down on the black market economy. The Youth League added:
“We also encourage the thorough searching of goods transported across the border and harbours to ensure that the illicit supply of tobacco is cut off at the source.”