The policy & practice of drug, alcohol & tobacco use during COVID-19

During Science Forum South Africa 2020, ASSAf Executive Officer, Prof Himla Soodyall, hosted a panel discussion themed The policy & practice of drug, alcohol & tobacco use during COVID-19.

The discussions explored the ethics of intervening in the lives of others under the lens of South Africa’s go-it-alone ban on tobacco and alcohol sales to tackle COVID-19. Leading medical, policy and civil society experts from at home and abroad weighed up the scientific evidence for and against. Further issues debated include concepts of recent history and subjugation versus today’s democracy and the rule of law. Have fundamental principles of autonomy, human dignity, freedom and equality been forced to give way? Is the medical profession’s “unconscionable collusion” acceptable? How must lawmakers navigate between the rights and responsibilities of individuals to look after themselves and the rights and responsibilities of States to look after their citizens? Above all, as this pandemic collides with the known syndemics of TB, malaria, HIV/Aids, hepatitis etc., the panel argued for the urgent acceptance and application of harm reduction science worldwide, if lives really do matter.