The illegal trade in cigarettes reached new heights in South Africa following the government’s decision to outlaw all domestic trade in tobacco products on 27 March 2020.

This formed part of a lockdown that was imposed to enable the country to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic that had recently reached its shores. Before the ban was put in place, as much as 35 per cent of the total cigarette market in the country was illicit.

After it was implemented, 100 per cent of the market became illicit. An already large and lucrative market for illegal traders in tobacco products prior to the lockdown became even more profitable, attracting an array of new actors.