NATIONAL NEWS - The percentage of smokers buying cigarettes from the illicit market increased by 2%, according to a report released by University of Cape Town (UCT).
The report revealed that 91% of smokers were found buying illegal cigarettes in May and it now stood at 93%.
Conducted by the UCT’s Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products, the report revealed that illicit cigarette traders were making a killing on sales after the average price of some brands increase by 457% during lockdown.
The report also revealed that more smokers were sharing cigarettes than they were before the ban, while the number of people buying illicit cigarettes increased in the last two months.
Based on these findings, it was concluded that the ban should be lifted immediately as criminal networks would be harder to remove the longer the ban continued.
“In our first report we argued that, although well-intentioned at the outset, the extension of the cigarette sales ban into lockdown Level 4 was an error.
“Based on the results of the second survey, we believe that the further extension of the sales ban, into lockdown Level 3, amplified the error. We recommend that the government expeditiously lifts the ban on the sale of cigarettes,” the report stated.
Tax Justice SA, which raises awareness on the illicit market, argued that the ban could no longer be sustained due to the country losing money to those traders.
The organisations’ founder Yusuf Abramjee said: “This report destroys Ministers’ sole stated reasons for the ban, which can no longer be sustainable. As the ban continues, more people are buying illegal cigarettes and prices are so high on the black market that smokers are forced to share.
“Minister Dlamini-Zuma stated that tobacco is banned because smokers risk infection with Covid-19 when they share cigarettes.
“But the ban is forcing them to do just that. It is increasing the spread of the virus, impoverishing decent citizens and enriching criminals in the illicit trade. As the report says, the ban should be lifted immediately.”
Abramjee said another report from the UK revealed that smokers were not at higher risk of infection from Covid-19.