Cigarettes flying off the shelves as tobacco sales ban goes up in smoke

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A box of Camels purchased on the first day of Level 2 restrictions.
A box of Camels purchased on the first day of Level 2 restrictions.
Jenni Evans
  • The ban on the sale of tobacco products was officially lifted on Tuesday.
  • Several petrol stations had not received tobacco stock by Tuesday morning.
  • One petrol station that managed to restock before midnight was almost sold out by 05:30.

Smokers across South Africa have already started journeying to their local stores and fuel stations to buy cigarettes legally for the first time since 27 March.

With the ban on the sale of cigarettes officially lifted on Tuesday, smokers have already made their way to retailers for a legal fix at a normal price.

READ | Lockdown cigarette dealers start slashing prices as govt lifts sales ban

During the prohibition, cigarettes were freely available albeit at inflated prices.

News24 visited several petrol stations and stores in Pretoria and Cape Town on Tuesday morning.

Many of the filling stations in the capital city had not been restocked as there were issues around manufacturers transporting stock overnight due to the late publication of the gazetted regulations and confusion as to the legality of transporting tobacco products before the move to Alert Level 2 of the lockdown. 

One petrol station had been restocked before midnight, but less than six hours later was already close to being sold out.

The cashier told News24 people started visiting the shop after midnight, clearly ignoring the lockdown curfew, and bought their favourite brands in bulk.

News24 also spoke to a number of smokers who were driving around looking for cigarettes.

At Makro in Silver Lakes, a small queue started forming outside the major retailer, with people eagerly waiting for the 09:00 opening time to purchase their cigarettes of choice.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Saturday evening that the ban on the sale of tobacco products would be lifted as the country entered into Level 2 of the lockdown on Tuesday.

On Monday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reaffirmed this, saying the sale of tobacco would be allowed and there would be no restrictions.

Dlamini-Zuma said government lifted the ban because of the decrease in daily Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations.

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