• A tax activist said due to the ban on cigarette sales, all cigarettes currently sold in South Africa have likely been produced on the black market. 
  • Unlike legal cigarettes, illicit cigarettes do not adhere to safety standards and can, therefore, contain foreign particles dangerous for an individual’s health.
  • Smoking is one of the leading causes behind lung cancer, and may cause Covid-19 related complications. 
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

All cigarettes sold during South Africa’s unprecedented lockdown have likely been produced on the black market, and therefore poses serious dangers to your health, a local advocate against the sale of illicit products said. 

South Africa banned the sale of cigarettes and liquor during the national lockdown to slow down the spread of Covid-19. 

Smoking is one of the leading cause of lung cancer and other respiratory disease,  and the World Health Organisation (WHO) also believes that individuals with a history of smoking may have worse cases of Covid-19 which may require hospitalisation.

Tax Justice South Africa’s Yusuf Abramjee told Business Insider South Africa that the cigarette ban has led to a “dramatic growth” in black market sales, with dealers charging over R100 for a packet of 20 cigarettes. 

Also read: If you smoke, prepare to argue cigarettes are a basic good – or go without during lockdown

Abramjee said due to governmental restrictions, all cigarettes now sold have likely been produced on the black market. 

Unlike legally produced cigarettes, illicitly produced cigarettes do not comply with manufacturing and safety standards. 

British American Tobacco, one of the country’s largest cigarette producers, therefore says illicit produced cigarettes may have dangerous levels of nicotine and tar content. 

“There is [also] no assurance with an illicit cigarette that it doesn’t contain foreign matter or chemicals,” British American Tobacco Southern Africa’s Johnny Moloto told Business Insider South Africa. These chemicals and foreign matter may pose serious health risks. 

Abramjee said an illicitly produced cigarette can be identified if a pack is being sold below the minimum tax threshold of R20.01 a pack, doesn’t have a South African tax stamp, or is being sold one by one. 

Also read: More than 50% of your cigarette price now goes to tax, national treasury says – and more than 20% of liquor

An impossibly low price is often a giveaway for illicit cigarettes, Abramjee said, but due to the lockdown restriction, illicit dealers have been hiking their prices. 

He said it is widely recognised that most of the illegal cigarettes smoked in South Africa are produced in South Africa.

British American Tobacco said SARS registered manufacturers produce illicit cigarettes by under-declaring production volumes, in a bid to produce additional volumes of cigarettes they don’t have to pay tax on.   

SARS has, however, recently clamped down on illicit production which has resulted in increased illicit cigarette production outside of the country, British American Tobacco said.

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