In a recent wave of panic-buying engendered by the coronavirus pandemic, South African smokers this week snapped up all the cigarettes they could lay their hands on after the lifting of a five-month ban designed to curb the spread of the dreaded COVID 19.
As part of a broader easing of restrictions, President Cyril Ramaphosa last weekend announced the end of a ban on sales of tobacco products and alcohol, effective from midnight on Monday.
Reuters reports that Customers, wary of shortages or future bans, bought whatever they could on Tuesday, in scenes reminiscent of panic-buying of groceries at the start of the country’s lockdown in March.
“People are not buying packets, they are buying cartons,” said an executive at a Pick N Pay Express store, who did not want to be named.
“I have a feeling that we may go back to level 3 (higher alert level), that is why I am buying a few packs,” a customer queuing at a tobacco store in Johannesburg’s Melville suburb said, again asking not to be named.
Many shoppers faced empty shelves as companies struggled to fulfil restocking orders.
In April, Ramaphosa said tobacco sales would be allowed but later changed his mind, citing concerns the sharing of cigarettes could spread the virus. This attracted court cases from local tobacco manufacturers association FITA and international company British American Tobacco South Africa.