Lockdown Caused Illegal Cigarette Sales to Boom, BATSA Wants Inquiry

Lockdown Caused Illegal Cigarette Sales to Boom, BATSA Wants Inquiry

- British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) said it supports any investigations into the illegal cigarette trade in the country

- BATSA released a statement early this week adding that the illegal trade costs SA taxpayers billions

- Reports say that the market for illegal cigarettes had immense growth during the 20-week ban in lockdown last year

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British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) said it completely supports a Commission of Inquiry into the illegal cigarette trade in the country. BATSA released a statement earlier this week, adding that it would back any proper investigation.

BATSA believes that the illegal cigarette trade continues to cost South African taxpayers billions in lost revenue.

Over the weekend, the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) along with the South African Tobacco Organisation (SATO) called for an investigation into the illegal cigarette trade in South Africa.

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Illegal cigarettes, BATSA, support, Inquiry Capture
BATSA says it completely supports an investigation into the illegal trade of cigarettes in the country. Image: RODGER BOSCH/AFP
Source: Getty Images

A report by IOL revealed that Tobacco Criminals and Smugglers of Africa (Tobacsa) alleged it made around R20 billion profit in illegal cigarette sales with the founder of Tax Justice SA (TJSA), Yusuf Abramjee, stating that the 20-week ban on cigarettes in lockdown helped kingpins in the black market pocket around R12 billion.

South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance was no secret that the illicit market grew bythree billion cigarettes during the lockdown year, according to EWN.

The statement by BATSA went on to say that the company would cooperate with any proposed major investigations as they are fully tax compliant and SARS conducts regular inspections of their factory.

Previously, Briefly.co.za reported that any results achieved by the lockdown ban on tobacco have been undone, according to a recent study. Prices on the black market had climbed and the Fair-Trade Tobacco Association, which is currently challenging the ban, has enjoyed a big slice of the pie.

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This is according to the Economics of Excisable Products Research Unit, which found that the price of tobacco had spiked by 250%. Around 23 000 citizens took part in the survey, revealing that citizens were paying an average of R5.69 per cigarette or R114 per pack.

Despite the high cost of smoking, only 30% had attempted to kick the habit during lockdown due to rising prices. Only 14% said that they had attempted to quit due to the ban itself. Professor Corné van Walbeek, director of REEP, says that the lockdown hasn't scared smokers off in the slightest:

"The intended lockdown benefit of people quitting smoking was mostly realised in lockdown Level 5. The percentage of respondents who quit subsequently has decreased to little more than a trickle."

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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