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Cigarette ban in numbers: These six stats highlight government ‘failures’

The South African logo The South African 2020-05-17 Tom Head
a pencil on a wooden cutting board © Provided by The South African

If you were baffled by the cigarette ban before, then this will go a long way towards compounding your confusion. Researchers at the University of Cape Town have compiled a report into the effect of prohibition on smoking, and the numbers don’t look good for the government and its war on tobacco.

In numbers: How the cigarette ban has failed South Africa

The report, titled Lighting Up The Illicit Market, reveals some damning findings: The ban has sparked a price war between illegal and legal sales of cigarettes – and it can’t be reversed when restrictions are lifted.

There’s also confusion about what SARS must now do. Their success in tackling the billion-rand tax hole created by illegal smokes seems to have been crushed within a few weeks. The numbers are grim…

  • It’s estimated that 50% of all smokers have switched brands, now ‘going local’ so they can get access to illegal cigarettes.
  • Cigarette prices are going up by 4.4% a day.
  • Smokers are paying an average of 90% more for cigarettes.
  • Around 67% of smokers are heading to spaza shops to pick up their illicit goods.
  • About 4% of people admitted to buying cigarettes through ‘drug dealers’, ‘cigarette smugglers’, or ‘black market traders’.
  • More than one in four (26%) cigarette consumers have turned to street vendors for their fix.

Mental well-being harmed by smoking laws

As well as the clear and obvious damage being inflicted upon the economy, the cigarette ban is allegedly igniting a mental health crisis across the country. UCT’s research unit head professor, Corné van Walbeek, has been scathing in his criticism of the tobacco crackdown, labelling it as ‘an error’ to continue with its implementation. “Respondents do not understand the economic or health rationale for the sales ban. While most understand that smoking is bad for their health, they felt that the sudden imposition of the sales ban, without any cessation support, caused them mental health problems because they were unable to smoke.

“It was an error to continue with [the ban] into Level 4 lockdown. The government should lift it as soon as possible. Half of the brands that are in the top 10 during the lockdown did not feature for the pre-lockdown period. These brands – Sharp, Caesar, JFK, and Remington Gold – are all produced by local companies.”

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