The Cancer Association of South Africa has said that people who smoke cigarettes are more likely to die from Coronavirus than non-smokers according to the Association’s National Advocacy Co-ordinator Lorraine Govender.

Research shows that people who smoke tobacco products are more likely to experience severe COVID-19 outcomes.

They are more likely to require mechanical ventilators, ICU, and are more likely to die.

Govender Said

The story surrounding the ban on tobacco products has remained a huge controversy in as much as the government has defended the ban as a way of curbing the spread of the Coronavirus in South Africa. This situation has also made the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma face a backlash from the public as she is being regarded as the sole proprietor of the move.

Since the ban, it has been discovered that the restriction is not really working as people have resorted to buying these tobacco products from the black market. The Minister claimed smoking increases the potential spread of COVID-19, particularly in poorer communities where individuals share cigarettes or use saliva when rolling hand-made sticks.

According to a report by the University of Capetown, 90% of 16,000 smokers that were surveyed between 29 April and 11 May 2020 were able to but cigarettes.

Govender explained that quitting smoking results in near-immediate benefits and could potentially reduce the risk of dying from COVID-19.

“In 24 hours, risks of strokes and heart attacks reduce. In two weeks the lung function improves. From one month the lung and immune system are starting to get better, which is key in the face of a respiratory illness like COVID-19,” Govender said.

Govender said while the country is losing out on tax on legitimate cigarette sales, smoking generally costs the economy far more with regards to its impact on the health sector.

“It is true that revenue is lost to illicit trade, and it also true that the harm to the economy annually amounting to R59 billion, outweighs tax from tobacco of R12 billion.”


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