The new tobacco bill will hand complete control of South Africa’s cigarette market to the criminal tobacco barons who are already stealing more than R20 billion a year in vital tax revenue. This is the warning from Tax Justice SA (TJSA).
“If the kingpins of the illicit cigarette trade were told to draft a plan to expand their deeply destructive empires, the tobacco control bill is what it would look like,” says TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee.
He added, “The proposed draconian rules for law-abiding manufacturers and retailers will simply turbo-charge trade for organised crime networks that are already looting state revenue on an industrial scale by ignoring existing regulations.”
The new tobacco bill
Parliament has called for public comment on the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, which imposes swingeing restrictions on manufacturers, retailers and consumers. These measures include plain packaging, display bans and no-smoking zones outdoors, with jail terms ranging from six months for smoking in the wrong place outdoors, to 15 years for buying or selling cigarettes online.
“It’s as if the Government has learned nothing from the disastrous and unconstitutional tobacco sales ban during the Covid lockdown,” says Abramjee.
“During that prohibition, which the courts later ruled to be illegal, almost every smoker was able to buy cigarettes and the only winners were the illicit networks that were able to charge sky-high prices.
“As a result, today nearly three out of every four cigarettes sold in South Africa are illicit and the fiscus is losing over R20 billion a year. If the bill becomes law, almost every cigarette sold will be illicit and many billions rand more of desperately needed tax revenue will be lost.
Keep yourself informed about the new tobacco bill
“Criminal manufacturers will continue to flood the market with cheap and colourful tax-evading brands. Meanwhile, it will be impossible to police display bans and other restrictions in the informal sector, where illicit cigarettes are currently being sold in huge volumes at prices that are a fraction of the taxes that should legally be paid on them.
“The tobacco control bill will turn law-abiding citizens into criminals and reward the villains who’ve been allowed to operate with impunity for far too long. Not a single life will be saved, and only the luxurious lives of the illicit cigarette kingpins will be improved.
“Anyone concerned with the rule of law in South Africa should oppose this legislation, and MPs should reject it as an ill-thought, counter-productive charter for cheats.”
The establishment of Tax Justice South Africa is a rallying cry to the people and to the Government to take action against organised criminal gangs that are plundering South Africa. Founded by Yusuf Abramjee, Tax Justice South Africa will campaign for a lawful and prosperous South Africa and for urgent action against criminals who steal billions in legally due taxes every year. Every day approximately R250 million is looted from South Africa by the illicit economy, undermining the Government and the rule of law, and robbing its people of a brighter future. Tax Justice South Africa is working to raise awareness of this national menace and show how these stolen funds could be used to build a better nation.