The lovely Snapdragon was shocked by the news that a bootleg cigarette brand has become South Africa’s favourite smoke.
“Why on earth would anyone prefer to smoke illegal cigarettes to legal ones?” she asked me. “It reminds me of the smokers during my school days. Many of them took a few drags behind the bathrooms during breaks because they enjoyed the forbidden act.”
“Price,” I said. “It’s all about the money. If you buy your contraband cigarettes in cartons, it comes to R8 a packet. Even less. The tax alone on a packet of legal cigarettes is almost R18. How much does a packet of your smokes cost?”
Snapdragon took a deep drag on her legal and severely taxed cigarette before answering: “I don’t smoke an expensive brand, but I pay around R35 a packet.”
“For that money, you could have bought four or even five packets of illegal cigarettes,” I told her.
“In theory, the tax on cigarettes could be paid into a fund where it is used to subsidise cancer research or education or healthcare, but it doesn’t happen.
“It goes into the state coffers, where it is stolen by corrupt politicians who may or may not use it to subsidise parties where they sniff cocaine from the naked buttocks of sexy young women.”
“Gross,” said Snapdragon. Or rather, I think that’s what she said – I find it rather difficult to listen when I’m reflecting on shapely female buttocks and our economy.
I’ve heard a man on the radio saying that illegal cigarettes funded state capture. If this can be achieved at R8 or R10 a packet, I can only imagine how powerful our economy should have been with a sin-tax of R18 per packet.
There’s a leaking tap dripping taxpayers’ money somewhere and Uncle Cyril needs to replace a bunch of defective washers very soon, or our already worryingly light state coffers will be empty in no time.
The country has money flowing in from the taxpayers.
The problem is the way that money is used.
The fortunes that disappear into the pockets of thousands of corrupt officials, the accounts of tenderpreneurs or into the safes of politicians’ family members and friends.
It’s not smoking legal cigarettes that is killing the exploited law-biding people of our great country. It’s a cavalier approach to education, healthcare and particularly taxes.