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Johannesburg - An anti-illicit trade summit has been held in Limpopo to try and find a way of combating contraband cigarettes, the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (Tisa) said on Thursday.
“If we don't do something fast enough, we stand to regret sooner than later,” Limpopo premier Stanley Mathabatha said in opening the talks, which were attended by Limpopo law enforcement and government agencies, and deputy provincial police commissioners from other provinces.
Limpopo's borders with Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique were the critical strategic buffers when it came to illicit trading and smuggling, Mathabatha was quoted as saying in a Tisa statement.
He referred to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's signing of an anti-smuggling protocol which aimed to eradicate tobacco syndicates worldwide, and to track and trace tobacco products from their manufacturers to their destinations.
Tisa said that, according to the National Council Against Smoking, there would be fewer cheap products for children and adults to smoke if smuggling was curbed
It claimed that smuggling increased sales and encouraged people to smoke instead of quitting after tax increases, thus making it affordable for the youth.
With more than 50 percent of contraband cigarettes coming from countries such as Zimbabwe, there was a serious need to work together with the law enforcement agencies of those countries, it said.
“The same way in which we are waging war against rhino poaching, we should do the same with cigarette smuggling,” Mathabatha said.
He reiterated the government's commitment and support to ensuring that the illicit tobacco trade was halted.
Tisa said: “The summit was a culmination of the ongoing collaboration between the tobacco industry and law enforcement agencies to curb the scourge of illicit trade in Limpopo and the rest of the country.”
The Beit Bridge border post and adjacent border lines were being targeted by cigarette smugglers.
“This is no longer food for thought as we can now clearly see the impact that illicit trade in cigarettes has on our province and our country,” said Limpopo police commissioner Sehlahle Masemola.