Recent research by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) found that it was four times easier to purchase cigarettes compared to alcohol, the sale of which is currently also banned. Another South African news outlet, News24, took exactly four minutes and 28 seconds to find cigarettes available to purchase. This is despite the country’s Level 4 lockdown that is currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to the report, HSRC also found that “a quarter of people in informal settlements were able to buy cigarettes.” In formal settlements, that number was halved. “One in five people in South Africa currently smoke, and approximately one in ten smokers were able to access cigarettes during lockdown. The continued access to cigarettes in informal settlements could imply informal trade,” stated the report.
Although cigarettes were no longer sold on display, News24 was able to purchase them at smaller grocery stores and from a variety of people selling them on the street. At major supermarkets and retail chains, cigarettes were not available. Major companies such as BATSA and PMSA told The Citizen that they are complying with lockdown regulations and are not currently producing cigarettes in South Africa.