Given that cigarettes are a well-known health hazard, it can be difficult to get angry about the news that the biggest-selling cigarette brand in this country is an illegal one.
The RG brand – illegal because it does not pay SA Revenue Service (Sars) duties of just under R18 a pack – is part of a bouquet of illegal tobacco products which now account for a staggering 42% of all cigarette sales.
This figure is up from 33% just three months ago, when the legal tobacco industry revealed that the piracy was then costing the SA tax authorities R7 billion a year in lost tax. Now that the illegal markets has grown even bigger, the loss to the fiscus is more than R8 billion annually.
That is something to be concerned about. This sort of avoidance of tax not only deprives our society of the desperately needed money to improve lives for people, but it is also a fact that the illegal cigarette trade often goes hand-in-hand with other criminal enterprises.
Criminality on this scale – not even counting the government officials and politicians who may be in the pockets of the smugglers – poses one of the biggest threats to our national security.