London, UK: Consumers from countries affected especially strongly by COVID-19 struggle to understand the heavy-handed South African approach of banning alcohol, cigarette, and vape sales during the lockdowns, argues the Consumer Choice Center. These are the voices of consumers from three different continents sharing their views on South Africa’s current ban on tobacco sales:
Nazlıcan Kanmaz from Turkey: “Many people smoke in Turkey and the government is trying to disincentivize it through sin taxes that currently make up 85% of the price of a pack of cigarettes. It is a paternalistic approach, but still not as much as banning all tobacco products–such as in South Africa. Lockdowns are already quite stressful in Turkey as they are usually announced last minute, and I cannot imagine the stress levels of nicotine consumers if the government would enforce such an ill-informed paternalistic policy during a moment of global crisis.”
David Clement from Toronto, Canada: “In Canada, the government responded to COVID19 by expanding consumer choice, not limiting it. Provincial governments in Canada declared convenience stores (where nicotine products are purchased), liquor stores, and even cannabis stores essential businesses so they could meet consumer demand. South Africa would have been far better to approach the pandemic like Canada did, which was without heavy-handed bans.”
Andre Freo from Brazil: “When thinking about an efficient public policy, the positive externalities for society must be arguably greater than the destruction of value for the individual. In Brazil today, we see an unprecedented health crisis, but the respect for consumer choice and freedom prevails, even under the new reality that COVID-19 imposed on us. People are already suffering great losses in their personal and professional lives with the disease, the government should not impose another burden on society.”
Fred Roeder, Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, concludes: “We have at least six times as many COVID19 cases here in the UK compared to South Africa, but there was fortunately never a time where I was not allowed to buy vaping liquids or cigarettes in my local grocery store. Given the limitations, we experience during the lockdown, it would be even more difficult if the government would ban me from buying nicotine. South Africa’s approach towards nicotine and alcohol sales is an unparalleled overreach of government power in times of global lockdowns”.
The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Johannesburg, Brasilia, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.