Watch: Desperate smokers duped by fake cigarette dealers [video]

South African smokers, desperate for cigarettes during lockdown, are being deceived by unscrupulous black market dealers.


One of the most controversial and hotly contested regulations enforced by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) continues to frustrate South African smokers. The prohibition of tobacco products, which has withstood pressure from numerous legal contests, has forced millions of South Africans into the black market trade.

Government's failed lockdown tobacco ban


Recent surveys have revealed the failure of government's tobacco ban. Most smokers continue to defy lockdown regulations and have, instead, been forced to engage with underworld dealers who have inflated prices of cigarettes by more than 90%.


Tax watchdogs argue that the tobacco ban has done little to curb the spread of COVID-19 but has successfully diverted billions of rands away from the state's coffers and into the pockets of criminals. Uncollected excise duties as a result of the ban are estimated to cost government R35 million a day. South Africa is nearing two months under lockdown.


Coughing up double the price and risking arrest at every turn, smokers continue to feed their nicotine habit.

Watch: A cigarette packet full of disappointment




Recent busts made by the South African Police Service (SAPS), in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies and the National Defence Force (SANDF), have uncovered a growing network of illicit cigarette traders. Several high profile arrests of smugglers and dealers point to a burgeoning black market which has flourished under prohibition.


While the legal challenge to overturn the ban, tabled by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), hangs in the balance with no set court date, police continue to warn desperate smokers of the dangers of underworld dealings.


A recent video shared on social media shows police officers unpacking a plastic-wrapped carton of cigarettes, which had been confiscated from a street seller who managed to flee the scene. Upon opening the boxes, police show that the cigarettes had been replaced with what appears to be chipboard.


Other social media users confirmed similar cons; with boxes bought containing pieces of cardboard and paper but no cigarettes.