President Cyril Ramaphosa announced late Sunday that tobacco sales would remain banned, while liquor sales would resume when the country entered Level 3 lockdown in early June.
This happened despite strong calls for cigarette sales to be permitted, and the ban contributed to the growing black tobacco market in South Africa.
The South Africa Revenue Service (Sars) estimated in April that the country had lost less than R300 million in taxes due to the ban.
In his televised address, Ramaphosa said sales of tobacco products would still be banned below Level 3 “because of the health risks associated with smoking”.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had previously said the country was following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice on the application and revocation of locking regulations.
WHO is a special body in the United Nations (UN), which is responsible for the health of the international community in its efforts to achieve better health care for people throughout the world.
Here is what the WHO said about people who smoked during the Covid-19 pandemic:
In March, WHO said, because smoking meant that the fingers (and possibly Covid-19 contaminated cigarettes) came into contact with the lips, it increased the possibility of hand-to-mouth transmission of the virus.
WHO says cigarette products, such as water pipes, often also involve the division of funnels and hoses, which can facilitate the spread of Covid-19 in communal and social environments.
The Cooperative Government and Minister of Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma previously said the country banned the sale of tobacco because, when people share cigarettes and saliva on paper, it increases the risk of Covid-19 infection.
In a statement in May, WHO said a review of a study by public health experts held by the organization on April 29, 2020, found that smokers were more likely to develop severe disease with Covid-19, compared to non-smokers.
It said smoking is a known complication factor for respiratory diseases, such as Covid-19.
“Smoking damages lung function, making it harder for the body to fight the corona virus and other diseases,” the WHO said.
The hospital says any condition that increases oxygen demand, or reduces the body’s ability to use oxygen properly, will put patients at higher risk for serious symptoms of Covid-19.
Oxygen circulation in the body increases about two weeks after a person stops smoking, and overall lung function also increases, Health24 reports.
Between one to nine months after a person stops smoking, coughing and shortness of breath decrease, and cilia (small hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) begin to function again normally. This makes the individual better able to deal with mucus, cleanse the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
There is ‘insufficient information’ to confirm that nicotine prevents Covid-19
Although a study in France showed that smokers might have a smaller risk of contracting the virus, WHO said there was “currently insufficient information” to confirm.
The organization says it continues to evaluate new research, including research that examines the relationship between tobacco use and nicotine, and Covid-19.
“WHO urges researchers, scientists and the media to be careful in strengthening unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine can reduce the risk of Covid-19,” the organization said in a statement.
A study released in April at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, a large hospital in Paris, France, indicated that a tobacco substance, possibly nicotine, could prevent smokers from becoming infected with coronavirus.
His findings are based on the hospital’s own observations and scientific literature.
However, the Guardian reports that researchers say they do not encourage anyone to start smoking, because it carries other potentially fatal health risks.
Researchers say, while nicotine can protect smokers from the corona virus, infected smokers often develop more serious symptoms because of the damaging effects of tobacco smoke on the lungs.
Clinical trials to use nicotine against Covid-19 are awaiting approval from the French health authority.
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