Campaign against illegal cigarettes
Duncan Alfreds, News24
Cape Town - Cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco has launched an unbranded campaign to limit the trade in illegal and counterfeit cigarettes in SA.
"We've been working with government for many years and we account for 85% of the legitimate market, but the illegal trade undermines our business and supports organised crime," BAT spokesperson Fay Kajee told News24.
The campaign will have a strong consumer education focus and retailers are aware of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes, she said.
"If product (pack of 20) is sold for less than R13.60, it's probably illegal and these are huge crime syndicates, not some small scale guy operating out of his garage.
"There are fines for retailers and the illegal trade makes up about 25% of the trade in South Africa. That's about 6.3 billion sticks."
She said most of the illegal cigarettes come across South Africa's porous borders with Zimbabwe and threaten the legitimate market.
"The illegal product is mostly manufactured in Zimbabwe - it's our biggest problem. Big retailers are guilty from time to time, but it's mostly big wholesalers selling the product to smaller retailers."
Telltale signs of illegal cigarettes include the cost, misplaced or missing health warnings and non-compliant levels of tar and nicotine, the company said.
"There's no pussy-footing around this: Organised crime is ugly and illicit trade fuels crime with guns, drugs and hijackings," said Kajee.
BAT says that there are about six million smokers in SA, and that the campaign is designed to make the public aware of the relationship between crime and the illicit trade.
The campaign will be above the line, and Kajee said it will cost an estimated R8m to R10m.
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