South African bans on tobacco, liquor amid virus stir debate

U.S. & World

FILE – In this May 7, 2020, file photo, beer taps of South African Brewery brands are seen through the window of a closed bar in Cape Town, South Africa. A bootlegging culture has sprung up across South Africa in response to the government’s nearly 8-week-old ban on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht, File)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A bootlegging culture has sprung up across South Africa in response to the government’s nearly 8-week-old ban on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol.

The restrictions are part of its lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Critics call the bans puritanical, hypocritical and unrealistic. But the government strongly defends them, saying there has been a significant reduction in the number of admissions to hospital emergency rooms from alcohol-related crimes and vehicle accidents.

Supporters of the ban on cigarette sales say smoking weakens the respiratory system. South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed cases with over 24,000.

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