Tax Justice SA (TJSA) is calling for an immediate lifting of the tobacco ban after a leading Government scientist today admitted there was “no evidence” that smokers would take up Covid-19 hospital beds.
Professor Lucille Blumberg, deputy director of the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD), said in a conversation broadcast online by the NICD: “There is no direct and very good information or good studies to link smoking with severe Covid-19.”
TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “We’re in the 17th week of the ban and the Government has yet to produce a single proven medical reason for outlawing tobacco.
“The only beneficiaries are criminals in illicit trade, who are making R100 million a day exploiting a gap in the market to sell over-priced illegal cigarettes to desperate South Africans.
“One of the Government’s own leading experts, Professor Blumberg, today admits that there is no evidence showing that smokers are at greater risk of Covid-19. She omits to mention that there is peer-reviewed international research showing that smokers are less likely to end up in hospital with Covid-19.
“Yet, as a result of South Africa imposing the world’s only Covid cigarette ban, almost 300,000 jobs in the tobacco value chain have been put at risk and the fiscus has been denied almost R4 billion in lost excise taxes alone.
“As the whole nation battles to cope with the peak of this virus, they are being told that honesty and hard work do not pay, but crime does.
“Instead of rewarding crooks and enforcing unproven medical prejudices, the Government should listen to the science and lift the tobacco ban immediately.”