NATIONAL NEWS - A survey conducted by Gig technology company, M4Jam has found that half of all South African smokers have been able to source new cigarette supplies during lockdown, and 95% are paying elevated prices for what are mostly black-market products.
A demographically representative sample of 2 013 South Africans who are signed up with the platform and are smokers, responded to questions about cigarette availability and consumption during lockdown.
Most respondents (87%) said they spent up to R500 per week on cigarettes before lockdown, with only 10% spending R501-R1 000 per week on their habit. The regularity of indulgence was evenly split, with one-third smoking up to three times a day, one-third with a moderate requirement of up to five smokes per day and 29% more than five times a day.
During lockdown habits have changed substantially. While the cigarette sales ban is in place, a third of smokers are still indulging one to three times a day, but just 9% of smokers have four to five smokes a day and another 9% are smoking more than five per day. Amazingly, 49% of smokers had stopped smoking during lockdown, choosing to avoid exorbitant prices or use lockdown as a good excuse to kick the habit.
To get themselves through, 44% of smokers had tried to buy in bulk before lockdown began, and only 6% still had some of those cigarettes left. 52% of smokers taking the survey said they would not and did not attempt to buy black-market cigarettes during lockdown.
The remaining 48% who had bought cigarettes during lockdown had mostly purchased black-market products (84%), mainly through a 'back-door' supplier or individual (59%). More than a quarter (26%) said they had managed to buy black-market cigarettes through local shops. Most smokers (79%) said they were not sharing their cigarettes under lockdown.
95% of those who had bought cigarettes during lockdown had paid more per pack.
26% of smokers were paying a hefty premium of more than R50 above the usual prices for a lockdown pack. 86% of respondents said they believed the black-market cigarettes were more harmful to their health.
Surprisingly, 36% of smokers agreed with the banning of cigarettes. “This response dovetails quite neatly with the decision of many smokers to try use lockdown as a hard break for their smoking habits,” says M4Jam CEO Georgie Midgley.
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