Ban on cigarette sales is 'irrational' and 'unworkable' - Tax Justice SA

The ban on the sale of cigarettes remains in place when SA moves to level three.
The ban on the sale of cigarettes remains in place when SA moves to level three.
Image: GINA SANDERS / 123RF

The government wrote a blank cheque for criminals when it decided to keep the ban on cigarette sales, Tax Justice South Africa said on Sunday.

Its founder Yusuf Abramjee described the move as “irrational'' and “unworkable”.

“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.”

He said the lockdown had posed a great business opportunity for criminal networks.

“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.” 

On April 30, SA Revenue Services commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the taxman had lost R1.5bn in tax revenue that could have been generated from the sale of alcohol since the start of the lockdown on March 27.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening announced that the entire country would move from level four to level three on June 1.

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave an update on the government's risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of Covid-19 in SA on May 24 2020. He said the country would be placed on level 3 of the national lockdown regulations on June 1. Ramaphosa consulted with business, labour, religious leaders and the tourism industry before his address.

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