Smoke Signals

I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.
–Kurt Vonnegut


I have written elsewhere on the ineffectiveness of bans on various drugs, and the harmful effects of such bans. Adults should be free to make their own decisions as to what they choose to ingest into their own bodies; governments should have no say in the matter. The South African government has seen fit to ban sales of tobacco, using as their excuse the lockdown to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The government are not parents to their citizens; citizens are not children to be disciplined and scolded for perceived wrong-doing. The purpose of government is to protect the weak in society from the depredations of the unscrupulous, not to protect citizens from themselves. In a free society adults should be permitted to make their own choices, even if those choices are harmful to themselves.

We all know that smoking is harmful to health, but that is not a reason to ban it. That it has been hitherto legal to use and deal in tobacco products in South Africa is an indication that the government is aware of this, and the recent ban is a flagrant breach of the rights of the citizens of that country.

Prohibition has always resulted in demand being satisfied by organised crime syndicates who rub their hands in glee at the enourmous profits to be made.

The government has not adequately explained their position or the reasons for the ban, only mumbling that it is for ‘health reasons.’ There is no scientific research that shows that this is indeed the case in the context of the covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the research shows the exact opposite: smokers are less likely to contract the illness in the first place, and if they do contract it, their symptoms are less severe. So what is the real reason for the ban?

Based on the current scientific literature and on new epidemiological data which reveal that current smoking status appears to be a protective factor against the infection by SARS-CoV-2

There have been allegations of corruption and profiteering levelled against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is alleged to have ties to the importers, manufacturers and distributors of bootleg cigarettes. I do not have evidence enough to offer an opinion as to the truth of the allegations, but if they are true they provide a reason for the ban. Another likely reason is stupidity, a quality which the South African government possesses in embarrassing abundance.

In either case, the ban should be overturned immediately. If the South African government wishes to retain any credibility with their electorate, they should eat humble pie now and reverse their absurd decision before it is too late. A petition calling for this has already garnered over 600,000 signatures.

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