Desperate for cigarettes and tobacco, some South African smokers have turned to smoking tea. It has been illegal to buy and sell cigarettes since the start of the national lockdown, on 27 March. Tea smokers roll the leaves up in Rizla paper.

Professor Keertan Dheda, director of the Centre for Lung Infection and Immunity and head of the division of pulmonology at the University of Cape Town, says he is not aware of research studies that examined the safety of smoking rooibos tea.

“However, smoking tea will result in the inhalation of several substances, including caffeine and particulate matter, which is likely to be harmful in the long run.  Chronic inhalation of particulate matter is often associated with subversion of immune responses and structural lung damage and therefore, as a general rule, I would advise against it.”