Trade union Fawu has embarked on a campaign to highlight the plight of South African workers who face losing their jobs to the ballooning illegal cigarette trade. Using the hashtag #NotJustAJob, Fawu’s tweets recount the personal stories of individuals employed in the South African tobacco industry who say their jobs are being threatened by cheap, illegally imported cigarettes.
These illegal imports are not subject to government’s ‘sin tax’ and therefore are sold on the streets for as little as R10 a packet, whereas legal, taxed cigarettes are priced from around R25 upwards.
Added to that, Parliament is mulling new legislation which seeks to ban advertising of tobacco products completely, as well as criminalise smoking in public. The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, published by the Department of Health in May for comment, seeks to ban the display of all tobacco products and cigarettes. If the bill is passed, a three-month prison sentence could be imposed for smoking in public and restaurants would have to remove their smoking areas.
Local cigarette manufacturers warned that the illicit cigarette trade, high taxes and the proposed new legislation could result in huge cutbacks in labour. Fawu says the potential 11 000 jobs which stand to be lost will destroy communities.
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