At 00:01 on Tuesday morning, South Africa entered Alert Level 2 of lockdown.
This level lifts a number of restrictions previously imposed on South Africans including the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.
Given the rise in ecommerce since lockdown was implemented we noticed a number of liquor outlets advertising pre-orders with delivery.
Curiously, there was no mention of pre-orders or delivery of cigarettes.
Perhaps there was simply no interest? That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least according to Google Trends.
The Google Trends embed above shows that searches for “buy cigarettes online” have increased substantially over the last week so, why are there no offers online?
The answer is rather simple.
The Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act of 2008 has a tiny clause that essentially makes the sale of tobacco products online illegal.
“No person shall sell, offer to sell, supply, distribute or buy any tobacco product through the postal services, the internet or any other electronic media,” reads Section 5(a) of the amendment.
This clause does not apply to commercial parties as outlined in Section 5(b).
“The prohibition contained in paragraph (a) does not apply to any commercial communication between a tobacco manufacturer or importer and its trade partners, business partners, employees and shareholders,” reads the section.
Curiously, vaping and ecigarettes are able to trade online. Whether this is an oversight on government’s part or a loophole (these products often contain nicotine but not tobacco) that allows the sale thereof, is unclear.
Unfortunately then, the smokers of South Africa will have to venture out to physical stores to purchase cigarettes.
Just remember to wear a mask when you’re out.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]