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 illicit 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 illicit cigarettes.
“It’s all in the price,” says Zacharia Motsumi, spokesperson for the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) – the voice of South Africa’s legal tobacco industry value chain.
“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.
“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.”
‘From seed to smoker’
Motsumi says research by IPSOS, funded by BATSA – one of SATTA’s founding members – has shown that a packet of 20 illicit cigarettes can be bought for as little as R6, with the average price of illicit packs being 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.”
SATTA does this in the “Know what you smoke” video by demonstrating the costs involved in the various stages of the tobacco industry value chain, from “seed to smoker”.
“At SATTA, we are committed to producing quality cigarettes, adhering to all the regulations and paying the necessary taxes,” says Motsumi.
“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.
“Our appeal to smokers is: 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 supports all law enforcement agencies that are involved in the campaign against illicit traders and was heartened by recent actions by SARS, in particular, that had led to the confiscation of consignments of illicit 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.
“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.
“We need a national effort to combat the illicit traders. That means law enforcement agencies, organisations like SATTA and consumers themselves.
He concluded, “We all have to work together to stop the illicit 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.”
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