A Media Analysis of the COVID-19 Tobacco Sales Ban in South Africa

Chengetai Dare, Nicole Vellios, Praveen Kumar, Radhika Nayak, Corné van Walbeek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The South African government introduced a nationwide lockdown in March 2020 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Among other restrictions, the government banned the sale of tobacco products. The ban lasted for nearly five months. We performed a Google search using the keywords smok*, puff*, lockdown, tobacco, and cigarette* for articles published in English from 23 March 2020 to 18 December 2020. This yielded 441 usable online media articles. We identified and categorised the main arguments made by proponents and opponents of the tobacco sales ban. Three themes were identified: medical, legal, and economic/financial. Legal aspects were covered in 48% of articles, followed by economic (34%), and medical aspects (18%). The media was generally ambivalent about the tobacco sales ban during the first five weeks of lockdown. Sentiment subsequently turned against the ban because the medical rationale was not well communicated by the government. There was limited empirical evidence of a link between smoking and contracting COVID-19, and the sales ban was ineffective since most smokers still purchased cigarettes. Policy framing in the media plays an important role in how the public receives the policy. Any future tobacco control policy intervention should be better considered, especially within the context that cigarettes are easily accessed on the illicit market in South Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6733
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 09-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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