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Selling 'loose draws' could land you behind bars

Millions of South African street hawkers could face up to five years in prison for selling loose cigarettes, says the South African Informal Traders Association (Saita).


Saita represents over 2.2 million informational street traders across the country.


The health ministry’s proposed Tobacco Bill prohibits vendors from displaying cigarettes.  


Saita believes the bill will unfairly prejudice hawkers, who sell cigarettes on table displays, unlike their formal traders who have the infrastructure to 'hide' the product.


The bill has drawn flack from both the formal and informal sectors.


Saita's acting president, Rosheda Muller, says drug dealing is a major problem in South Africa, however, the government is more concerned at the selling of cigarettes.


"I think it will take the informal economy to the streets to object... it is ridiculous to think a person could be put in jail for making a living," says Muller.


She says the health ministry did not take into account the implications the bill will have on informal traders.


"We are vulnerable workers, out in the cold, running around taxi ranks, sitting on street corners without any infrastructure. So we have to continue selling our product, we are selling loose cigarettes... that's one of our mainstream income we sell on street corners."


Saita says with the banning of selling cigarettes on the street, many street traders face the possibility of losing an income and will lead to an increase in illicit cigarettes.


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