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Police clampdown on illegal cigarettes

Retailers were recently forced to stop the sale of BAT Zimbabwe’s imported Dunhill brand amid indications the products were not compliant with the country’s laws.

Chris Muronzi

A source told businessdigest this week that BAT’s Dunhill brand was recently taken off the shelves in major supermarket chains after it was found to be non-compliant with the Statutory Instrument 264 (2002) (SI 264 (2002).

The Dunhill packs and dispensers carry South African health warnings, which are considered to be illegal under the instrument.
SI 264 (2002) governs the sale and marketing of tobacco and tobacco related products. Among other things, it outlines the rules and regulations guiding the sale of cigarettes, packaging required and health warnings.

BAT’s competitors such as Savanna Tobacco, the manufacturers of the Pacific brand of cigarettes and Fodya, the makers of the Mega Brand of cigarettes, have complied.

Authorities say BAT is using a South African health warning which reads: “Warning: Smoking Can Kill You”, among others that are used in the South African tobacco industry.

According to the Statutory Instrument, Zimbabwean cigarette manufacturers have to use the mandatory Zimbabwean health warning which reads: “Danger: Smoking Is Harmful to Health.”

Several shop managers are said to have been arrested and fined in the past two weeks as police intensified its clampdown on non-compliant cigarettes in the market.

OK Zimbabwe CEO Willard Zireva this week confirmed there had been issues with BAT’s Dunhill products.

He said: “I know there was an issue ten or so days ago. Authorities are saying because these (Dunhill cigarettes) are imported products, they are not compliant legally. It’s largely an issue to do with labeling that is not compliant. This is an issue I understand BAT are going to rectify. You can call BAT, they will give you more information.”

Investigations show that most retailers have restocked the cigarettes.

Cigarette products exported from Zimbabwe into South Africa are however required to carry SA health warnings.

BAT is also struggling with non-compliant products in the stick market, where vendors face arrest for selling non-compliant naked cigarettes.

For instance, Savanna and Fodya have been innovative and packaged loose cigarettes, targeting the low-end of the market bearing legal health warnings.

It has also emerged that Savanna Tobacco was also caught on the wrong side of the law when Pacific Mist products meant for the South African market were found in some local outlets.

The products are not for sale in Zimbabwe.

The company said it has since withdrawn the offending packs and had replaced them with the Zimbabwean variant which is legal.

Questions e-mailed to ZRP spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba had not been responded to at the time of going to print as she said she was attending a workshop, while BAT spokesperson Shingai Rhuhwaya had not responded to e-mailed enquiries at the time of going to press.

Several calls to Ruhwaya’s mobile number had not been responded to at the time of going to press.

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