A ban on the sale of cigarettes in South Africa since the country’s COVID-19-induced lockdown began in March has cost the economy millions of rands daily in the form of tax revenue lost to illicit sales of smokes, a variety of industry officials say.
A study conducted by the country’s Human Sciences Research Council on the impact of the lockdown showed that cigarettes were more accessible to South Africans compared to alcohol during lockdown.
TAX Justice South Africa, which advocates lifting the ban on cigarette sales, urged citizens to join the fight against criminals looting the country’s coffers.
“Very few people realize that, for many years now, illicit cigarettes have been openly displayed for sale at local stores and account for a third of all cigarettes sold in South Africa.
“During the lockdown ban on tobacco products, criminal syndicates have used their sophisticated networks to keep trading and enriching themselves,”
In the 2015–2016 financial year, the revenue service estimated fiscal loss through the illicit trade of cigarettes at R6 billion.