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South Africa’s Tobacco, Booze Ban Lit Up Illegal Trade

South Africa may have banned cigarettes and alcohol during its lockdown but, for some, the good times kept rolling.

While the rules were meant to help manage the health impact of the coronavirus pandemic — reducing alcohol-related trauma cases and cutting pressure on hospitals — they’ve allowed illegal traders to gain a foothold in the market.

Tobacco and alcohol products remained readily available through the black market from when the ban first kicked in with the shutdown from March 27. A University of Cape Town study found that 90% of smokers were able to purchase cigarettes during lockdown — often at elevated prices. The cost of cigarettes increased at a rate of 4.4% a day in the two weeks through May 11 and averaged almost 250% more than pre-virus levels, according to the survey.

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