- The Soweto Business Access group has pleaded with the government to lift the ban on cigarettes
- The organisation says that they are concerned that the ban is spreading the virus by spiking tobacco prices on the black market
- Citizens are not only resorting to crime to get their fix, but they are also sharing now more than ever
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The Soweto Business Access group has called on the government to lift the cigarette ban, adamant that they are concerned it is simply serving to spread the virus faster.
Submitting this opinion to the state, the organisation says cigarettes have become expensive while the black market cashes in on the government's decision. Billions of rands in tax revenue have also been lost:
"It’s a seller’s market and illegal traders can demand massively inflated prices. The cost of a single or loose draw has gone up from from 50 cents to R5/7 since the lockdown started. As a result of the scarcity and the price, more and more people are ending up sharing cigarettes. They are sharing saliva when they share cigarettes – not because they want to but because the government has made cigarettes almost unaffordable."
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Social distancing has been thrown out the window as smokers club together to share the cigarettes they manage to find:
"Smokers are also violating the rules on social distancing when they stand next to each other to share a skyf. In so doing they could be spreading the virus faster than we think. So the culture of sharing – forced by the regulations – now threatens to increase the spread of coronavirus rather than stopping the spread."
Briefly.co.za reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced that, while alcohol will be sold, cigarettes will remain prohibited.
SBA warns that the ban is only going to place more pressure on the government as infections spike:
"The residential premises of those that have managed to acquire cigarettes from their underworld contacts have become magnets for social gatherings for teenagers. It is within these yards that young smokers are now sharing cigarettes in groups, in the same fashion as people have been known to gather to smoke illegal drugs like meth, wonga, nyaope, etc."
The danger of smoking illicit cigarettes is now compounded as dealers attempt to gain customers for far more sinister products:
"Most cigarettes are now being sold as loose draws or singles, consumers have way of no knowing their origin, their contents or whether in fact they contain narcotics. This is a very real concern for us, and one which the government seriously needs to consider."
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