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Press Release

New UCT report leaves tobacco ban in ruins, says TJSA

Tuesday 21 July 2020 – THE tobacco ban lies in ruins this lunchtime after a new report destroyed the government’s reasons for the sales prohibition.

The latest report by leading experts at the University of Cape Town finds:

  • FIVE times as many smokers are now regularly sharing cigarettes than they were before the ban
  • The average price of some brands has risen by a massive 457% during lockdown
  • The number of people buying illegal cigarettes has INCREASED in the last two months
  • Criminal networks are becoming harder to remove the longer the ban continues

The ban should be lifted immediately, concludes the report, by UCT’s Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products.

Tax Justice SA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “This report destroys Ministers’ sole stated reasons for the ban, which can no longer be sustainable.

“As the ban continues, more people are buying illegal cigarettes and prices are so high on the black market that smokers are forced to share.

“Minister Dlamini-Zuma stated that tobacco is banned because smokers risk infection with Covid-19 when they share cigarettes.

“But the ban is forcing them to do just that. It is increasing the spread of the virus, impoverishing decent citizens and enriching criminals in the illicit trade. As the report says, the ban should be lifted immediately.”

The report is published on the same day as new research emerged from the UK showing that smokers are not at higher risk of infection from Covid-19.

The UCT authors urge an immediate lifting of the ban, stating a crackdown on illicit trade afterwards will be difficult because “illicit operators have been able to entrench themselves during the lockdown period”.

It is the second report by the unit, which found in May that 91% of smokers were buying illegal cigarettes. That number has now risen to 93%.

“In our first report we argued that, although well-intentioned at the outset, the extension of the cigarette sales ban into lockdown Level 4 was an error,” says the report. “Based on the results of the second survey, we believe that the further extension of the sales ban, into lockdown Level 3, amplified the error. We recommend that the government expeditiously lifts the ban on the sale of cigarettes.”

The full report is available here