While the country awaits the judgment of the Pretoria High Court on the ban of tobacco products, smokers in Komani are looking to the black-market for their nicotine fix.
Many smokers say they are prepared to suffer the crunch of exorbitant prices in the underground market because quitting is not yet an option.
Premium brands are now fetching as much as R2 200 per carton, while “cheapies” are now going for as much as R700.
Joshua Goss, who has been smoking since 2004, says he will never quit. “I will never quit. I will continue buying my cigarettes and smoke them in front of the police.
“My great grandfather, grandfather and father, they all smoked. My mother tried to quit and got sick. If you have been smoking for over 10 years you cannot just quit,” he says.
Goss says he is paying R1300 per carton for his preferred brand. “Availability is not an issue. It depends on your supplier. If they do not have, they know who does. The only problem is that you then get it at inflated prices,” he laments.
In a brief walkabout Cathcart Road, The Rep reporter spoke to three smokers on condition of anonymity.
A 29-year-old man who has been smoking for over 10 years, said quitting was too hard. “We need to smoke. When you are craving a cigarette it is hard to concentrate on anything else.”
He said he was feeling the pinch as prices were going up by the day. “I am now paying R10 for a cigarette. It was R8 last week.”
A man, 60, and a woman, 67, who were smoking together said they had now resorted to cheap cigarettes because they could no longer afford their preferred brands.
“It is not easy to quit. Nicotine is in the system. The ban is making us smoke counterfeits because the real ones are now too expensive,” the man said.
In an investigation, The Rep found several places in Komani selling cigarettes, including shops and street vendors.
Dylan Jacobs, who has gone a week without smoking, said he found it difficult to understand why the tobacco was still banned while restrictions on booze had been lifted.
“It just became too expensive. A carton is now going for R2100. What I don’t get is why alcohol is allowed because if you do both you end up smoking more.”