National Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize hosted a virtual meeting on tobacco control in South Africa on Sunday.
The day is marked across the planet as World No Tobacco Day, with the purpose of informing the public on the health hazards posed by smoking.
The meeting, chaired by Mkhize, will feature his deputy Dr Joe Paahla, chief research specialist at the Human Science and Research Council, Dr Sibusiso Sifunda among others.
It comes just as the South African government is facing legal action over the continued prohibition of tobacco sales. It has been noticed that the sale of tobacco products has been outlawed in the country since it entered lockdown in later March.
With social-distancing regulations set to be eased significantly from Monday under Alert Level 3 restrictions, the ban will continue and could stay in place until Level 1 is implemented.
However, the The Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association has taken the State to court over the extended ban.It is joined by cigarette giant, British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA), who say they have tried to engage the government on the matter.
“BATSA has made every effort to constructively engage with the government since the ban came into force, including making detailed submissions, along with other interested parties, to various Ministers, as well as directly to the Presidency,” it said in a statement.
The reasoning given by government behind the extended ban on tobacco sales during the COVID-19 lockdown is that it aims to safeguard public health, as smokers are prone to suffer more severe symptoms of the novel virus than non-smokers.
“This, in turn, increases strain on the public health system, by increasing the number of people who will need access to resources such as intensive care unit beds and ventilators,” Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.