RG and Sharp lead black market cigarette sales – survey

Cigarettes for sale in Johannesburg in May during the lockdown. Picture: Gallo Images/Papi Morake
Cigarettes for sale in Johannesburg in May during the lockdown. Picture: Gallo Images/Papi Morake


Between May 26 and 31, a survey of 2 013 smokers noted that 86% felt that it was more harmful to their health to be smoking black market cigarettes.

M4Jam, a micro-jobbing platform that connects employers with job-seekers on a per-gig basis, gathered the data via its platform where nearly 5 000 people responded. However, only 2 013 were smokers.

It also found that most smokers who continued their habit paid more to sustain their fix, with about 30% paying R40 or more per pack on the black market.

READ: 'State lied about tobacco ban'

The most common cigarette brand on the black market, the survey found, was RG (47%), Sharp Rich Virginia (30%), Remington Gold (19%) and Pacific Blue (17%).

What struck the compilers of the survey was how many people had stopped or reduced their smoking intake. Almost half (49%) of smokers said they had not smoked during the national lockdown, while 52% said they had not attempted to buy illicit cigarettes.

READ: Today is the day to stop smoking - here's why

Of the 2 013 smokers, 767 said they smoked one to three times a day while 592 said they smoked more than five cigarettes a day before the lockdown.

Only 187 said they smoked more than five cigarettes a day, while 678 said they now only smoked one to three times a day. More than 950 said they had not smoked since the lockdown started in March.

“When asked for their reasons for quitting, health considerations featured very prominently in the responses,” said Georgie Midgley, the chief executive of M4Jam.

“While some smokers are feeling the pinch of economic difficulty and electing to ride out the lockdown without cigarettes, many others seem to have used the time to reflect on the positive health benefits of giving up smoking,” Midgley said, adding that this temporary decline in smokers would only be fully noted once the legal sale of tobacco products resumed.

READ: Tobacco is banned to protect lives – Dlamini-Zuma

The survey also noted that 64% of respondents said they would go back to buying their regular brands when it’s legal to do so.

M4Jam said the survey was a “demographically representative sample of 2 013 South Africans who are signed up with the platform and are smokers”.


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