Cigarettes sellers making a killing in black market

Hyderabad: The ban on cigarette and chewing tobacco sales due to the closure of outlets during the lockdown has created an underground market for what are now like hard to obtain commodities in Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Cyberabad. These items are being sold at triple the original rate across the city via a huge network that operates on social media where people can get door to door delivery.

According to sources, earlier people use to sell via through the black market since the lockdown was announced. The phone calls and messages placing orders for cigarettes and tobacco items have increased with the prolonged lockdown. This covert availability and accessibility has enabled people to obtain their tobacco.

Some paan shop owners and cigarette selling wholesalers have utilized their networks to form WhatsApp groups advertising their in-stock offerings. This enables people to put in an order for the third party and pickup for cigarettes is arranged.

High price

Once the cigarettes are collected from the supplier, then the middleman drives to the third party’s home and drops it off discreetly.

However the sneaky sales come at skyrocketed rates.

A packet of 20 cigarettes, which sells for no more than Rs. 300 is being sold now for Rs. 600 or Rs. 700. An inexpensive Rs. 60 packet is now priced at Rs. 150. Even the relatively inexpensive Rs. 15 zarde ka paan (betel leaf with tobacco) costs Rs. 20 more.

The cheapest cigarette has become unaffordable with its hefty price tag of Rs. 200. Smokers say they are paying up to Rs. 600 per 20-pack, which could be bought Rs. 300 pre-lockdown. A loose cigarette (a single cigarette out of the box)  is now worth Rs. 22, Rs. 10 from its original cost.

The exorbitant prices can be attributed to the risks being taken by those making the illegal sales. Yet, the consumers willingly oblige and continue to purchase at these rates. The pricey cigarettes are flying off the underground shelves sources said who spoke to undercover reporter.

A man from Nampally area, who asked to remain unnamed fearing arrest or a fine, said the message spreads through “word of mouth.”

Commenting on the covert nature of his purchases, he said “I feel like I’m buying drugs said the man.

Smokers

“Mostly, its smokers who inform one another regarding if they know anyone selling,” he said.

He stated during the earlier days of lockdown, a pack of cigarettes could be acquired for Rs. 130 and Rs. 150 in both New City and Old City. “During the lockdown’s second phase, the price hike just became ridiculous. In the first week it was Rs. 130, but after a few days a 20-pack soared to Rs. 600. I think it is simply perplexing that these people are taking advantage because they know smokers need to nurse their nicotine addiction,” mentioned this person who is still buying the cigarette pack.

This person has spend more than Rs. 3,000 on cigarettes since the lockdown commenced.

Prices

The Nampally resident area stated that cigarettes were being sold in various suburbs in the city. “Three weeks ago, a carton was worth Rs. 1000, but as soon as the lifting of the lockdown was cancelled and thereby extended, it doubled in value and will continue going up every day,” he told.

Three other residents shared that they knew of people who got stock of cigarettes in Dabeerpura.

The siasat.com reporter received word that cigarette sellers operating in Old City, Secunderabad and Cyberabad were allegedly collecting their stock from a “heavily guarded building” in Hyderabad.

Mohammed Hussain mohammedhussain.repoter@gmail.com

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