As Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the much-anticipated return of both booze and cigarettes from Tuesday, expert and author of gripping exposé Uncovering the Dark Underbelly of the Tobacco Industry, Telita Snyckers, said the illicit trade has highlighted one potent point regarding illicit tobacco trade – that enforcement agencies may not have the muscle to curb the trade.
Snyckers says the bogus operators had had an opportunity to entrench themselves in the market which had also seen the industry’s bigwigs acting with impunity way before the lockdown ban of tobacco products.
In an interview, Snyckers points out that around 35% of the local market was already dominated by illicit packs since before the tobacco ban.
She said the lockdown ban somehow amplified the systemic weaknesses in the country’s system, as it highlighted the almost sense of invincibility of the tobacco industry.
Pointing out that no significant arrests, detentions or seizures of illicit packs were made during the ban, Snyckers said enforcement was not robust enough in extinguishing the trade.
The lift on the ban may have come too late, as the bogus operators had entrenched themselves in the local landscape.
While Dlamini-Zuma said cigarettes were allowed but sharing cigarettes was prohibited due to the pandemic, Snyckers pointed to a looming price war in the midst.
As tobacco products make their way back into the market, it was likely that the big wig companies could play dirty in an effort to reclaim their share of the market.
She maintains that there needed to be adequate policy measures in place which checked minimum pricing measures as well as traits that identified whether tax was paid on a particular box of cigarettes.
Part of the challenge was not being able to track or identify if tax was paid on a particular pack.