Government punishing us for its own failures, says petition against tobacco ban

'You [Cyril Ramaphosa] have handed us over to the illegal market, like sheep to a pack of wolves,' says the author of a petition signed by more than 500,000 people. She says the president has ignored the petition
'You [Cyril Ramaphosa] have handed us over to the illegal market, like sheep to a pack of wolves,' says the author of a petition signed by more than 500,000 people. She says the president has ignored the petition
Image: 123RF.COM/MARCBRUXELLE

Bev Maclean, who started an online petition against the ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, has written an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa expressing the frustration she says is felt by many.

The petition was started when smokers were given one day’s notice of the ban before the lockdown started on March 27, and has since been signed by more than 529,000 people.

“We have lost patience and confidence in you and your government. It is baffling why you continue to ban the sale of tobacco products,”  Maclean said in the letter.

Maclean said smokers initially bought into the idea that the lockdown had been critical to curb the spread of the virus.

“However, the government has made several highly questionable decisions including the decision to ban tobacco products for sale in supermarkets, petrol stations and spaza shops.

“Our very same government admitted later that we have been confined to a lockdown and stripped of our rights because the health system was not ready.”

Maclean accused the government of punishing citizens for its historical failures.

“With continued years of a lack of service delivery and therefore poor health infrastructure, why are we citizens made to pay the price for your inefficiencies?

“At the commencement of the lockdown, tobacco sales were prohibited. To date, we have been provided with vague reasons to this effect and no evidence to support this decision.

“We have lost access to legitimate products at the right price in the market.

“Instead, you have handed us over to the illegal market, like sheep to a pack of wolves, where illicit tobacco products are readily available at exorbitant prices,”  MacLean said.

She slammed Ramaphosa for not responding to the petition.

“If this is a caring and listening government, as you have claimed, you have failed in listening to the almost 600,000 voices that I have been submitting to you, requesting the ban on tobacco be lifted.” 

Maclean said many of those who had been asking for the ban to be lifted understood the risks associated with the request during the period and moving forward.

“You have provided us with ample guidelines on general hygiene which is applicable to all product use. Mr President, open the sale of tobacco without delay.

“There has been no justifiable evidence to support your decision and the unintended consequences of your decision is harming us already and will harm government, too, for a very long time to come.” — TimesLIVE


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