I am no conspiracy theorist. That said, I am also one that questions when something doesn’t sit right with me. When my gut instinct tells me something is amiss and it doesn’t leave me until I get to the bottom of it. 

I have had this niggly feeling ever since Dr Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma banned tobacco and tobacco products a few days after the President unbanned it as we were moving onto Level 4 of this Lockdown our country is in.

There were so many questions rolling around in my head that I needed answers to and those became a bit more since we are moving down to level 3 on the 1st June and alcohol will be available but not tobacco products.

I don’t agree with the racist, sexist vitriol that was levelled at NDZ. There is no reason for that and it’s vile and unnecessary.

I want to focus on her reasoning for the ban. I believe that it’s for the 11 million smokers health that she is not willing to have it unbanned and that according to her because Covid19 attacks the lungs and smoking is harmful to lungs, it places smokers in a, particularly vulnerable position. They may require hospitalization and because they are smokers they may need to be placed on ventilators (of which I read we don’t have enough of), and those ventilators will be needed when people with the virus become really ill. Apparently, there will be an increase in positive cases. 

What I would like to know from NDZ and the President is why they continue to ignore the signed petition of more than 500 000 people wanting to smoke, yet took into account 2000 people who signed a petition against the unbanning of tobacco products.

Why, with TB which kills, according to a survey done in 2016 by World Health Organization, about 330 people daily in this country, there was no haste from any Government organization to actively promote giving up smoking.

The other reason NDZ gives is that people share cigarettes. Yes, they do. The difference between before lockdown was that they were sharing legal cigarettes. During the lockdown, the sharing hasn’t stopped except that it is now illegal cigarettes they are sharing. Ignoring this and continuing the ban would be like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Why is this not taken into account?

The profits made from the illegal trade of cigarettes which is sold at more than 6 times the normal price, whose pockets are they lining? We all know that the illicit trade won’t stop, in fact, during prohibition in the States alcohol was still being sold but the mafia was selling it and became powerful as a direct result of that. Are we looking at the same thing happening here? Why are these cigarettes still being manufactured during “prohibition?”

Then comes her “concern” for the 11 million smokers’ health. Smoking is bad for you. Smoking kills but it is especially bad, according to NDZ during this Covid19 outbreak. Is she saying that only South African lives matter to her? I ask because the exporting of tobacco and tobacco products is allowed under lockdown so does this mean that we have a doctor who only cares about saving our lives? What happened to first do no harm? Surely that would apply across the board because we are fighting a global virus not a South African one.

I read somewhere that NDZ is concerned for our health and I commend her on that but ultimately it is a person’s inalienable right to make the choices they want for their lives. If by chance this is her desire then she should have joined the Red Cross or Medi Sans Frontier and save lives in that manner.

As a South African who had no rights before 1994, it is concerning that too many voices are not being heard and her stance is simply, “because I said so!” I worry about what next considering that Bheki Cele has warned that he will search your cars and stop you in the street if you’re smoking then demand you produce a till slip to verify where you bought it. I hope that his warning is also for police and army personnel who smoke in public or is that different? Is this a case of do what I say not what I do?

So to recap:

Smokers have been given the right to smoke in their homes, but not to purchase the products because its bad for their health yet let them smoke the illegal ones on the street but smoking isn’t that bad because companies are allowed to export it. It sounds like a game of silly buggers. Much like we could not purchase underwear during the lockdown as if wearing new underwear would somehow attract the virus more. I worry about our hard-earned freedom that can be taken away without consultation and done so on a “maybe”, “if”, or “in the event of!” 

During Apartheid alcohol was banned and people that were not white could only get it at off sales or brew their own. Often the home brewing led to horrific deaths.

Prohibition of any kind leads to an increase in the desire to obtain and or consume because of scarcity. Remember the Mafia became worth a trillion dollars starting with Prohibition and they were then able to launder their money through legal entities and fund politicians.

Covert19 or Covid19? You decide.