Illegal cigarette trade flourishes in South Africa amid ban on tobacco sale

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 03, 2020, 02.21 PM(IST)

Smoking in times of coronavirus Photograph:( AFP )

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Interestingly, selling of alcohol has restarted, which is leading to an increase in traffic incidents and brawls

South Africa is still struggling to control the spread of novel coronavirus, however, the strict lockdown restrictions are eased to resume the economic activities. 

But, smokers were given no respite as South Africa is the only nation in the world to ban sale on all tobacco products. The government has imposed the ban in late March to protect citizens health during the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Interestingly, selling of alcohol has restarted, which is leading to an increase in traffic incidents and brawls, reported AP. 

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to quit smoking during the pandemic and said that smoking is linked to higher infections and death from COVID-19 of patients who are hospitalised. 

The challenge for South Africa, however, is that a ban has caused a jump in the illegal sale of cigarettes. 

Some experts say that after a ban on tobacco sales, cigarettes have become the most sought after illicit drug in the country, generating money higher than cocaine and heroin. 

Cigarettes stashed in grocery bags are pushed across the counter at corner shops. Young men flash packs in streets and a signal to them is good enough for a purchase.

The sellers are taking full advantage of this ban and a pack of 20 cigarettes can cost upto $11 that used to be $1.70 pre-lockdown. 

VIP service also exists in which one has to contact the illicit seller via phone. The service will deliver 200 cigarettes to your home for $350 and the cost of these cigarettes is normally nearly $20.

People who support this ban argue that some smokers quit or cut down their habits during the lockdown. However, a survey of over 12,000 smokers by the University of Cape Town found out that more than 90 per cent of people purchased cigarettes illegally during the lockdown.