South Africa: Illicit Trade in Cigarettes and Alcohol Has Thrived During Lockdown


Government has under-estimated how much the banning of alcohol and cigarettes boosted illicit trade. With alcohol now back on sale, it would be good for the country if the ban on tobacco products was lifted as soon as possible.

Last week saw mounting excitement ahead of the ban on alcohol sales being lifted on Monday, the start of Level 3 of the risk-adjusted lockdown. The beginning of the week saw long queues outside bottle stores and other outlets that had been prevented from doing business since the end of March.

The intention of the ban was to allow the health sector to prepare for an anticipated peak of Covid-19 cases in three months' time. However, the sale of cigarettes remains banned - a move critics say has nothing to do with the pandemic and everything to do with a certain minister's abhorrence of smoking.

We are one of only three countries - the others are India and Botswana - to have banned the sale of tobacco products at this time. In SA, there is growing pressure on the state to lift the ban, with questions being asked about the science that informed the decision.

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