President Ramaphosa’s address on Sunday night has once again left a very bitter taste in my mouth. The off-handed announcement that the ban on cigarettes and tobacco products would continue was even more infuriating coming from him than from Minister Dlamini-Zuma when she made her own U-turn announcement some weeks ago. The logic of this ban defies any rationality and simply beggars belief. It is not only without any scientific basis; it is spiteful and cruel.

First the issue was “the saliva on the paper” and now it’s simply that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and that smoking is bad for your lungs. Duh? I think most of us smokers know that. You are our President, for heaven’s sake, not a parent or a teacher. But thanks for treating us like retarded children. You have no idea how it has boosted our morale at a time when we are fast losing our livelihoods and our sanity. Your guidance has been most helpful and we are so grateful for your concern for our health!

I can now sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that the damage inflicted on my lungs by 40 years of smoking will magically disappear in the few weeks that you so nobly prevented me from smoking. Now, if I should get COVID-19, thanks to your benevolent gesture, I will simply sail through it and hardly get sick at all! The fact that my mental health will take a nosedive as I struggle through the effects of nicotine withdrawal are but a small price to pay for this wonderful gift of uncompromised lungs you have given me. Once again, I cannot thank you enough.

Sarcasm aside, I think the agitated state I find myself in is probably clear from the tone of this letter. Yes, I am angry. Not only for being treated in such a condescending manner, but for being made to feel like a criminal. It is not only outrageously unfair and insulting – it is cruelty disguised as goodwill. The stress it has induced in perfectly innocent and law-abiding citizens has led to serious withdrawal symptoms, anxiety and depression; it has ruined relationships and marriages. It has affected not only me but so many people around me.

To mention just one example: there is my 85-year-old mother who has been kept in isolation at the care home where she lives. Among the few pleasures she had left in life were the two cigarettes she smoked every day – one with a cup of coffee late morning, and the other with a small whiskey or a glass of wine before dinner. Already deprived of her children and grandchildren’s visits during this endless lockdown, she simply can’t understand why she is no longer allowed to smoke the two cigarettes per day. At her age, I think that’s the least she deserves. It’s not asking for much. But maybe our President will be able to explain to her why this regulation is “good for her”.

There simply is no excuse for this nonsensical regulation. My friends all over the world are gobsmacked. I almost feel embarrassed to tell them about it, as it makes me feel ashamed of our so-called leaders and the type of country I live in. How is it that the medical experts advising our President have not told him that there is absolutely no clinical evidence that smoking is a predisposing factor for contracting and becoming seriously ill with COVID-19? In fact, it is something that has puzzled the medical world for months, as the data points to exactly the opposite: a very small percentage of patients that have to be hospitalised for treatment are smokers. The stats are so startling that some doctors are now advocating for nicotine to be used as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Oh, the irony…

But then again, maybe they do know this – and maybe there is something much more sinister behind this tobacco ban. Because whichever way you look at it, the nonsense we are being fed (and expected to believe) simply does not make sense.

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