Ban on cigarette sales ‘to cost govt over R1bn a month’

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The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) urged the government to reconsider the nationwide ban on the sale of cigarettes.

The government stands to lose more than R1 billion a month if the ban on the sale of cigarettes remains in place, according to an industry body, which also warned the ban could lead to people travelling inter-provincially to buy and smuggle cigarettes, bypassing lockdown regulations.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) urged the government to reconsider the nationwide ban on the sale of cigarettes.

“We would, therefore, urge government as a whole to reconsider this aspect of the regulations in order to avoid, inter alia, a large-scale state of unlawfulness where citizens are contravening the lockdown regulations in order to acquire cigarettes,” said Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, the chairperson of Fita.

He said other provincial governments and national government should lift the ban because cigarettes had not been banned in other countries under lockdown due to the coronavirus.

Mnguni said the government would lose in excess of R1 billion a month on excise alone if the ban stayed in place.

A large number of jobs could also be lost along the tobacco industry value chain.

“Authorising at least the distribution and sale of cigarettes at retail stores, spaza shops and filling stations would give the economy a much-needed boost and avoid a situation where our citizens, out of desperation, contravene the regulations of the lockdown en masse.”

The organisation added that the sale of cigarettes was continuing through illegal channels and the profits obtained were lost to the economy because taxes were not being collected by the South African Revenue Service and other tax authorities.

The Western Cape provincial government, which was widely reported to have lifted the ban on the sale of cigarettes, said yesterday that it did not have the power to change regulations.

“The Western Cape government does not have the power to change regulations,” said spokeswoman Bianca Capazorio.

Premier Alan Winde was reported to have said that, according to an interpretation of the law, sales of cigarettes were not specifically banned.

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