SA smokers have changed their habits, according to a new survey

Business Insider SA
  • A new survey among 2,000 regular smokers found that almost half have now been forced to stop due to the national ban.
  • This is in part due to the cost: more than a quarter of lockdown smokers have to pay at least R50 more per pack than usual.
  • Only 9% of the smokers are now indulging in four to five cigarettes a day.
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A new survey among more than 2,000 South African smokers found marked changes in their habits amid the continued ban on cigarette sales during the national lockdown.

While almost 30% of the respondents smoked more than five times a day before lockdown – this has fallen to only 9% this month.

A third is indulging one to three times a day, while 9% are smoking four to five cigarettes a day.

According to the survey, 49% of the pre-lockdown smokers are not currently smoking at all.

The smokers were surveyed by M4Jam – a “micro-jobbing” platform where members do small market research jobs or complete online courses in exchange for rewards such as cash, vouchers and points. (The company recently partnered with Cell C to help boost incomes during lockdown – members who complete educational courses via M4Jam get rewards.)

According to a much larger University of Cape Town study (among 16,000 smokers), almost a third of South Africans quit smoking during lockdown – but 12% will restart once the ban is lifted

This is in part due to the cost: 95% of those surveyed by M4Jam are paying more for their cigarettes during lockdown, with more than a quarter paying more than R50 above the usual price for a pack of cigarettes.

Only 6% still had some of those cigarettes left from bulk-buying before the lockdown.

The UCT study found that more than 90% of smokers have been able to buy cigarettes during lockdown.

READ: South Africans now smoke rooibos, but a lung expert won’t recommend it

Almost 60% of the lockdown smokers get their cigarettes from “back-door” suppliers or individuals (59%), according the M4Jam survey. More than a quarter (26%) said they had managed to buy black-market cigarettes through local shops. Most smokers (79%) said they were not sharing their cigarettes under lockdown.

The survey found that most of the lockdown smokers have switched to new brands, including RG (47%), Sharp (30%), Remington Gold (19%) and Pacific (17%). But almost two-thirds said they would go back to buying their regular brands when the ban is lifted, which they believe are less harmful to their health, according to the respondents.

READ: ‘Value’ cigarette brands are widely sold despite the tobacco ban – and they’re awful

Surprisingly, 36% of smokers agreed with the banning of cigarettes. “This response dovetails quite neatly with the decision of many smokers to try to use lockdown as a hard break for their smoking habits,” says M4Jam CEO Georgie Midgley

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