South African universities ban smoking on campus

South African universities have been instructed to ban smoking from all of their campuses and residences, according to a notice issued by the University of Pretoria.

“In accordance with a notice received from the Department of Higher Education and in line with the directives from the National Command Council, smoking is prohibited on all University of Pretoria campuses and facilities for as long as the ban on the sale of cigarettes is in force,” said Rikus Delport, spokesperson for the University of Pretoria.

A University of Pretoria email seen by MyBroadband warns that students or staff caught smoking at any university facility will face disciplinary action.

“We take the health and well-being of our students and staff seriously and we urge everyone to comply with the precautions that were put in place on our campuses and in our residences,” the email states.

MyBroadband asked the Department of Higher Education and Training, Science, and Innovation whether universities have been directed to ban smoking on campus and at residences.

A spokesperson for the department provided the following statement: “In terms of the NCC Regulations, cigarettes are prohibited under level 3.”

Department of Higher Education spokesperson has previously confirmed that smoking at universities and TVET colleges would be prohibited for the duration of South Africa’s ban on tobacco products.

Ban on sale of tobacco products

When South Africa began its COVID-19 lockdown on 27 March, the National Coronavirus Command Council banned the sale of tobacco products along with alcohol and other non-essential goods.

The government extended the lockdown and implemented its “risk-adjusted strategy for economic activity” with five COVID-19 alert levels, but did not allow citizens to restock on items deemed non-essential, including cigarettes and alcohol.

Even after the move to alert level 3, which allowed alcohol to be sold for home consumption, the sale of tobacco products remains banned.

If you are convicted of selling cigarettes during the lockdown, you face a possible fine, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) and British American Tobacco South Africa have taken legal action against the cigarette ban imposed by the government.

Among the concerns raised is that the continued ban on smoking has allowed the trade of illegal cigarettes to flourish in South Africa. They argue that the ban has not encouraged people to quit smoking, but to buy unregulated, untaxed cigarettes at inflated prices from illicit traders.

In response to Parliamentary questions, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the decision to prohibit the sale of cigarettes was based on a variety of factors.

“At this stage, it is difficult to determine when the ban on the sale of tobacco and related products will be lifted,” he said.

Ramaphosa said that this decision would depend on factors including the progression of the disease in South Africa, the readiness of local health systems, and the “evolving knowledge on the nature and impact of the virus itself”.

Now read: The curious case of smoking and COVID-19

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South African universities ban smoking on campus