Desperate smokers become generous in their emotional pleas for cigarettes

A smoker who has been begging government daily via e-mail to lift the ban on cigarette sales during lockdown, is suggesting that government increases the tax on cigarettes by up to R10 a packet until the end of April.

But there is method in his madness.

Vernon Swanepoel from Johannesburg says if government allows retailers to put cigarettes back on the shelves, the extra income can go to the Solidarity Response Fund or used for hunger relief.

Swanepoel praises President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership which he says is saving thousands of lives, but beseeches him to also help the 11-million smokers who are either buying cigarettes on the black market or suffering intense withdrawal symptoms.

In an e-mail to government that he shared with the media he writes: “Please let us [smokers] also HELP… if each of us pays an extra R5 or R10, I’m sure that those funds would help the country in these difficult times.”

He says on top of the much-needed money for those in need during lockdown, it would prevent smokers moving around looking for illegal cigarettes and suggests the following guidelines for cigarette purchases.

“We could order cigarettes online and/or we could only buy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and/or we could only be allowed to buy cigarettes when purchasing other essential goods.

“We as the smokers of South Africa, are asking (pleading) if possible to lift this smoking ban, especially in this time when stress levels are higher than normal.”

The ban was lifted in the Western Cape, but after National Police Minister Bheki Cele said the police would crack down on anyone who sold tobacco products, cigarettes are still not available on any legitimate retailer’s shelves.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s spokesperson, Bianca Capazorio told George Herald they are still awaiting clarity on the lockdown regulations from National Government on a range of issues. Apart from the ban on cigarettes, these include the purchase of equipment needed for e-learning and which stores can sell essential and non-essential goods. “Premier Winde raised the matter on clarity around regulations at the President’s Coordinating Council meeting last Saturday. We have also submitted an official letter to the department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs asking them for clarity on these regulatory matters. We will share more information once we have a further update. For now, National Government’s position is that cigarettes cannot be sold,” Capazorio said.

A request for comment has been sent to the office of the President.

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