South Africa ease down ban on cigarettes, illegal trade may continue

During nearly five-month ban on legal sales of cigarettes in South Africa as part of its anti-COVID-19 measures, the smuggling of cigarettes boomed in the country and even though the legal sales are once again allowed, with many in the tobacco industry thinking that the illegal trade will continue.

While South Africa put an unprecedented restriction to prevent respiratory problems associated with the novel Coronavirus infection, few smokers were deterred all because of the thriving illegal market.

When the country eased down the ban on August 18, there was a rush of sales of cigarettes. But the biggest fear of the cigarette manufacturers in South Africa is the growth of the illegal market during the prohibition period that could have a lasting impact and can even reduce the legal sales.

British American Tobacco, the world’s second-largest tobacco group, which claims to have an estimated 78% share in South Africa’s legal cigarette sales, said, “South Africa has the biggest, by far, illegal trade in tobacco in the world.”

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