AS smokers are now well into their fifth month of a countrywide cigarette ban, prices on the “black market” are increasing daily and the public is prepared to pay whatever the cost.
NewsHorn spoke to a few smokers and cigarette vendors.
Mission Mashiloane from Marite said it was easy to find cigarettes, especially in rural areas, despite the prices being very high. From day one of the cigarette ban, cigarettes had been available he said.
“I tried to quit smoking due to the fact that the price went up to R5 for a lose draw and R100 for carton, but it’s going to be difficult to people like us to quit because of its availability on the streets,” Mashiloane said.
“Smokers will do whatever it takes just to get a puff and judging from break-ins, you can see that they want to feed their habit,” he said.
Christopher Benadie from White River said the scarcity of cigarettes and high prices had forced him to quit smoking because he refused to pay so much.
“After the ban of cigarettes I tried to buy it from other avenues, but the price increases get higher each day and we cannot find our original brands. So I decided to quit because we were getting fake cigarettes harming me even more, so its two months since I last had a smoke,” he said.
Meanwhile, Daphney Mnisi from Sand River said she had been profiting from selling cigarettes and she would continue to use this opportunity until they unbanned it.
“I get my cigarettes from Mozambique and Swaziland and supply it to my customers in my villages and other villagers to sell as well. I never had a job before and I depend on selling cigarettes and other things and when they banned it, I jumped at the opportunity to boy stock and I can tell you that I have made lot of cash since the beginning of the lockdown,” Mnisi said.
A Pakistan shop owner in Hazyview, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he also received his cigarette stocks from Mozambique and sold it to his customers at higher prices even though it was not an original brand.
“In my shop even police officers come to buy it to smoke and to sell it to their colleagues. When they saw police buying and smoking, villagers came to my shop and even if other police come to my shop, they will not find it,” he told NewsHorn.
As always, the Mpumalanga police spokesperson, Brig Leonard Hlathi, reiterated the same old story.
“The community needs to work with the police in making sure that the rules of the lockdown are adhered to by reporting those who are breaking the law.
“I must appeal to everyone who witness all the wrongdoing of the people, especially those who are breaking the rules by selling unauthorised cigarettes, that can even harm them. As for the officers who support such things if they can be caught they will be dealt with accordingly,” Hlathi said.