South Africa’s tobacco industry is stepping up its campaign against illicit cigarette producers, with a new educational campaign aimed at helping smokers to distinguish between legal and unlawful products. The “Know What You Smoke” campaign is hinged on an animated video that explains how the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes, is the best way to identify illegal cigarettes. “It’s all in the price,” said SA Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) spokesperson Zacharia Motsumi.
“Just the cost of the taxes on a packet of 20 amounts to R21.60. That covers excise duty and VAT on excise only. But it doesn’t include anything else – like the tobacco, the processing, manufacturing, distribution, wholesale or retail,” he said. “So, if you see a pack of 20 on sale for less than R21.60, you should know there’s probably something wrong with it. Somewhere, somehow, the cigarettes are probably not fully compliant, or legal.
“And in that case, it’s best to avoid them altogether, or if you can, report the matter to the police or other authorities,” Motsumi said. Research by multinational market research and consulting firm Ipsos, funded by British American Tobacco SA – one of SATTA’s founding members – shows that a packet of 20 illicit cigarettes can be bought for as little as R6.
The average price of illegal packs is between R18 and R22. “There is no way these products can be sold so cheaply, and the manufacturers are still paying taxes. We are now on an all-out campaign to explain this to smokers, and to expose how the illicit traders are getting away with tax evasion,” he said. In the new video, SATTA demonstrates the costs involved in the various stages of the tobacco industry value chain, from “seed to smoker”.
“Buying a pack of 20 for less than the minimum collectable tax of R21.60 means supporting illicit trade and, in the process, stealing taxes, putting tobacco farmers, processors and manufactures out of work, undermining the economy and supporting the wrong people,” said Motsumi. “Our appeal to smokers is to know what you smoke, and in that way avoid the tax-dodgers. Let’s buy legal and protect the legal tobacco industry.”
Motsumi emphasised that SATTA supported all law enforcement agencies involved in the campaign against unlawful traders. It was also heartened by recent actions by the SA Revenue Service that led to the confiscation of consignments of illegal cigarettes. “There is no doubt that the law enforcement agencies have increased their efforts in recent months, and we welcome that. However, although the efforts are commendable, it still only scratches the surface and much more needs to be done to get to the big fish who sits behind the production of these illicit products,” he said.
“Now, we are empowering consumers themselves so that they too can play a role by recognising and avoiding illicit products, and reporting these to the authorities,” Motsumi concluded that it was vital that everyone worked together to stop the unlawful trade. “It is robbing tobacco farmers of their income, jeopardising jobs in the processing and manufacturing sector, and stealing millions from the fiscus every month. It has to stop.”
The Know What You Smoke educational video can be viewed at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXHDUPTO3HQ