The illicit trade in cigarettes in South Africa is now in full swing after the sale of tobacco was banned at the end of March as part of strict measures imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus, as the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani reports.
Whereas once Michelle could go to her local shop in South Africa’s commercial hub, Johannesburg, to buy cigarettes she is now having to do a secret deal.
The 29-year-old economist finds sellers through contacts in WhatsApp groups and arranges a covert meeting in order to get her nicotine fix.
“Once you’ve found a seller you can trust, a meeting point or pick-up point is arranged,” she said.
South Africa’s lockdown regulations are among the toughest in the world and also include a ban on the sale of alcohol.
This will be relaxed from 1 June, with people allowed to buy alcohol to drink at home and “only under strict conditions on specified days and for limited hours”, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
However, he said the ban on the sale of cigarettes will remain “due to the health risks associated with smoking”.