KNYSNA NEWS - Roaming the streets of Knysna, Knysna-Plett Herald journalist Tembile Sgqolana discovers just how easy it is to get your nicotine fix... if you are willing to pay through your nose.
As I approach the four-way stop in Gray Street behind Shoprite in Knysna, two men come running holding cigarettes in their hands and asking, "Wil jy sigarette hê? (Do you want cigarettes)?"
I open the window and as one of the men takes out his merchandise, I see Mega, Sevilles, RG, Wish, Savanah and JFK among the brands on offer.
When I ask if he has Stuyvesant or Courtleigh, he warns they are expensive - I can get one cigarette of these brands for R10, whereas the others range between R4 and R5 for a "loose".
The whole process is completely overt and no one seems to care what is happening.
The men carrying their bags are moving up and down, approaching every car as well as pedestrians in the area.
At the taxi rank, the situation is different. You have to be careful when buying. You feel like you are "scoring" drugs, as everything is done covertly.
In the township it's no problem finding a house, spaza shop or someone walking around selling cigarettes.
Bottom line is, since the ban of cigarettes in late March, an underground market has sprung up charging triple the usual amount per cigarette.
A smoker, Andile Qolo, whom I accompanied on his trip to buy a cigarette from a shack in Concordia, said he is not planning to stop smoking anytime soon. "I have been smoking for 15 years and even the prices won't make me stop," Qolo says, adding, "A pack of 20 cigarettes goes for R150 - three times the old price and more, depending on the dealer."
Although the prices are high, Qolo has resigned himself to the reality and even sympathises with the sellers, saying they risk arrest.
The only good thing about it, he states, is that he now smokes only one cigarette a day. "I used to smoke three or four cigarettes but now save this one cigarette for later."
At the time of going to print, no comment has been received from the police. If received, comment will be added to the article here.
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