The COVID-19 Tobacco Ban in South Africa Has Backfired As Predicted

Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, almost every Health Departments in the world believe that smoking may cause a higher risk of contracting the virus. Hence, the government of South Africa published a policy to ban tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and alcohol sales in March.

“Vaping is not smoking, those are two different things. Both vaping and cigarettes contain nicotine, but nicotine is not what kills people in smoking, people die because of the tar,” said Asanda Gcoyi, chief executive of Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA).

Also, Gcoyi concerned about the ban on tobacco and e-cigarettes and that vapers will return to smoking or purchasing products via 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.”

(Alcohol ban in South Africa | The South African)

And her concern was confirmed by a recent study from the University of Cape Town. More than 16,000 people participated in this study on how they’ve been affected by the tobacco ban.

(Tobacco and e-cig ban in South Africa | The South African)

Researchers Corné van Walbeek, Samantha Filby, and Kirsten van der Zee said,

“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. Smokers are buying cigarettes in large quantities, despite the lockdown, and unusual brands are becoming prevalent.”

Because of the ban, smokers cannot buy cigarettes from major retailers such as Spar while they could only turn back to the black market, street vendors, and unregulated corner shops. Moreover, products of famous brands were off-shelf due to the ban, unfamiliar and unknown brands have become more prominent for purchase. Thus, the quality of these unknown brand’s products cannot be guaranteed.

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