Press release: Ban on tabacco



Ban on tobacco may exacerbate gender-based violence, says 1000 Women Trust

CAPE TOWN. – 1000 Women Trust and other South African organizations spearheading the fight against gender-based violence have pleaded with the government to lift the ban on sales of tobacco products during the Level 4 extended lockdown in the country.

1000 Women Trust said the governments’ continuous banning of the sales of tobacco products during Level 4 is possibly exacerbating gender-based violence in South Africa.

Claudia Roodt, a partner of 1000 Women Trust and a trauma-informed workshop facilitator in Cape Town, said the decision not to lift a ban on the sales of tobacco products, will have a severe negative impact on the mental health of people in South Africa who smoke.

Gender-based violence in South Africa has surged during the national lockdown. 1000 Women Trust says it is seeing more cases because women are staying with their abusers 24-7.

A woman is killed every three hours in South Africa, according to police statistics – a rate five times higher than the global average. Half are murdered by men with whom they had a close relationship.

Tina Thiart, a founder member of 1000 Women Trust, said to expect a significant percentage of the nation to go cold turkey after years of being addicted to tobacco products poses an extreme danger to them, their families, and children.

Children and women might be exposed to somebody who has severe withdrawal symptoms and with no possible way of finding an outlet valve for their emotions or other ways of controlling it.

Roodt said if the government had consulted with trauma- and addiction practitioners they would have been advised that tobacco products are too many people a way of coping with challenges in life.

It might be a bad habit but so are many other things like too much screen time, overeating, and any other habit which brings immediate relief to the discomfort of the nervous system, but with long-term consequences.

These are all addictions. To remove these coping mechanisms or adaptive behaviors or survival mechanisms from people in a time of such uncertainty is not a thought-through decision and creates a much wider negative spiral, said Roodt.

Roodt quoted Bessel van der Kolk, a well-known trauma- and neuroscience expert in Boston, the United States of America, who said you cannot take people’s coping mechanisms away unless you give them something better to replace it with. In the case of the ban of tobacco products in South Africa, that has not happened.

It is of no use to make the statement that the ban of tobacco products is for the good of the people. For those of them who have used smoking for so long to cope, it is a punishment. This decision to ban the sales of tobacco products have a severe negative impact on the mental health of the nation, Roodt warned.

“We call on the national government to lift the ban on the sales of tobacco products as the prevailing pandemic of gender-based violence in the country is possibly exacerbated by the decision to ban the sales of cigarettes,” Thiart said.

Press release compiled by Fanie Heyns on behalf of 1000 Women Trust. For more information, contact Tina Thiart on 073-2079079.