Durban – DESPERATE South Coast smokers were duped into buying cigarette cartons which turned out to be empty.
The lockdown regulations prohibit the sale and purchase of cigarettes.
The prohibition was instituted at the start of the lockdown on March 27.
On April 23, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the prohibition would be lifted during level 4 but days later, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the prohibition would remain, citing health reasons.
Among the reasons given for the ban on tobacco is that smokers may pass on the virus by sharing cigarettes and that smoking reduces the immune system.
George Snodey, Community Crime Prevention Organisation (CCPO) spokesperson, said he was aware of three incidents where buyers were duped with empty cigarette boxes.
Snodey said in separate incidents, two men and a woman bought empty cigarette boxes in the Checkers car park in Seadoone Road in eManzimtoti. “They sell it to you; you give them the money, they give you the cigarettes and walk away. When people open the packet, they find newspaper and plastic inside.”
He said the perpetrators loitered in the car park, going from car to car, asking if anyone wanted to buy cigarettes.
In another incident, Snodey said a man was robbed of R600 for a carton of cigarettes and the perpetrators fled.
“Our concern is not who’s buying and who’s selling, that’s not what the CCPO is about. We are just warning people.”
The victims could not report the crime due to the lockdown regulations pertaining to cigarettes.
By Thobeka Ngema