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Press Release

Cigarette ban extension rewards criminals and endangers citizens

Sunday 24 May 2020 – THE extension to the cigarette ban is a green light for criminals to continue looting South Africa at the expense of decent citizens’ lives, warns Tax Justice South Africa.

TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “With their decision to extend the irrational and unworkable tobacco ban the National Command Council has written a blank cheque for criminals and robbed the South African people of billions of rands that could save lives.

“All the evidence shows that the vast majority of smokers are not stopping smoking during the lockdown and are simply buying on the black market, so the ban is failing in its sole stated purpose.

“If smokers’ health was the ministers’ concern, they would not be trying to force them to go ‘cold turkey’ without any support or rational explanation.

“If the nation’s health was the ministers’ concern, they would not have thrown away R2 billion in cigarette taxes which could have bought more than 11,000 desperately needed ventilators.”

The crime epidemic spawned by the lockdown ban will carry its own heavy toll, says Mr Abramjee.

“For two months, the lockdown prohibition has allowed crooks in the illicit trade to enrich themselves while the Treasury has been starved of R35 million a day in cigarette excise duties.

“Those criminal networks have become so entrenched that experts say they will be almost impossible to remove.

“They will continue to exploit South Africa’s 11 million smokers with sky-high prices, their desperate customers will have to spend extra money meant for food, and innocent children will go hungry.

“Health experts, crime experts and economists agree that this ban has backfired. Its only beneficiaries are illicit traders in the criminal underworld, who will be celebrating again in style tonight.”