MIllions of cigarettes destroyed

2013-05-31 17:53

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Johannesburg - Eleven million contraband cigarettes have been destroyed in Musina, the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (Tisa) said on Friday.

"Over two days, starting yesterday [Thursday] more than 1001 mastercases were destroyed, or 11 million cigarettes," said spokesperson Francis van der Merwe.

"The excise lost to the government was R6m. This [destroying cigarettes] was an ongoing thing."

Last year Tisa destroyed between 80 and 100 million contraband cigarettes, with 340 million destroyed in 2011.

Van der Merwe said eight and three million contraband cigarettes were destroyed last week in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape respectively.

Tisa destroyed the cigarettes at their own cost as part of a partnership with government. Its aim was the destruction of one billion contraband cigarettes a year.

"Last year, South Africans smoked between eight to nine billion cigarettes.

"We have to destroy them by the millions. This is what we do in our partnership with government," he said.

"After government seizes them, we destroy them under their provision. We are sending a message out there that we will not tolerate this."

The impact of contraband cigarettes was large, with government losing billions in tax and the industry losing the same in revenue, said Van der Merwe.

Last year, government lost more than R12bn due to contraband cigarettes.

Around 7.7 million people in South Africa used tobacco products.

He said Tisa, beyond destroying the cigarettes, worked with police, customs, and security agencies in sharing information cigarette manufacturers gathered on the market.

They also assisted government in training officials, who worked at border posts, for example.

"About 30% of the cigarettes in the market are illegal. When you are a smoker, make sure you buy a legal product," he said.

About 55% of all contraband cigarettes in 2012 were made in Zimbabwe, with countries such as Mozambique and Swaziland used as means of entry into South Africa.

"More than 30% [of contraband cigarettes] are manufactured locally," said Van der Merwe.

He said the only people benefiting from contraband cigarettes were criminals.

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