Why is there a tobacco ban in South Africa?

Opinion by Johann Pienaar

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Why is there a tobacco ban in South Africa?
Why is there a tobacco ban in South Africa? Image source: Pixabay

How can anyone condone alcohol and ban tobacco? How can this possibly make any sense?

Logically reviewing possible answers to the puzzle reveals the following:

  • Is it justified for medical reasons? The answer is clearly NO. Alcohol AND tobacco would have been banned if that was the case. Alcohol abuse is obviously a far greater problem during this pandemic
  • Is it a conspiracy with corrupt politicians eager to get a share of the profits of cigarette smugglers who have been gifted with this lucrative opportunity of massive profits? The answer is probably NO as well. I may be naive but I doubt that all the politicians that could have influenced this regulation are corrupt.  Obvious irrational behavior would also be not in the best interest of corrupt politicians.

It seems that something else is involved which drives this fanatical irrational behavior.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning”
Albert Einstein

The answer to this puzzle required some research. Speaking to non-smoking friends and family did not provide an answer – all regarded the allow alcohol YES and allow tobacco NO, ban as misguided and irrational.  Some viewed the allow alcohol NO and allow alcohol tobacco NO as misguided but rational.  Others viewed allow alcohol NO and allow tobacco YES as less misguided but also rational.

Fortunately I came across someone who supported the sale and use of alcohol but fanatically supported the ban on tobacco. At last someone who met the logic criteria of allow alcohol YES and allow tobacco NO.

At last the puzzle could be solved and the herd of elephants in the room could be made visible by just asking “Why do you believe this”.

For a subset of religious people the following is fanatically believed and whether or not it is rational to others who do not share their interpretation is irrelevant to them.

They believe:

  • Jesus made wine therefore alcohol is allowed.
  • “Your body is a temple of GOD” and smoking harms you body and therefore it is evil.

Those who believe this have the right to believe this. Freedom of religion is enshrined in our constitution. They however do not have the right to force their beliefs on others who do not share in their interpretation of what people should believe in.

Anyone who has studied psychology or is interested in logical thinking would have come across the concept of cognitive dissonance.

“In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values; or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that.” Wikipedia

The stress caused by cognitive dissonance results in intelligent people who are normally rational becoming unable to realise that they become irrational when confronted with something that is against what the strongly believe in.  The concept is considered to be an evolutionary advantage that helped early humans to survive in dangerous situations where immediate action was required and where time wasted by over thinking the situation would have had fatal consequences.

In situations where immediate reactions of more than a few seconds are not needed this trait is today a serious disadvantage. Cognitive dissonance is the root cause of most of what is seriously wrong in the world in the past and in the present. For instance, the racist views of apartheid were justified by many with twisted interpretations of cherry picked bible verses.

South Africa is a secular country and if the anti smoking regulations were enforced with religious intention then the regulations are clearly in contempt of our constitution and must be removed immediately.

Johann Pienaar

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