Mysore/Mysuru: While the price of essential commodities are being monitored, liquor and cigarettes do not come under essential commodities, and so traders are charging exorbitant prices for the same. They are being sold at over 50-80 percent above the MRP.
In India most smokers buy cigarettes as singles or loose cigarettes but now only packs are sold forcing smokers to buy not only full packs but also at increased prices. Some smokers have even started buying cartons and are stocking them up in case of shortage.
A pack of king size cigarettes that used to cost Rs. 170 earlier is now being sold at anywhere between Rs. 250 and Rs. 300. Also, a packet of three paan masala that used to cost Rs. 10, is now being sold at Rs. 30 to Rs. 50. A bottle of liquor that used to cost Rs. 1,200 is being sold for a premium of Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 5,000. Some liquor shop owners had stocked the liquor at their homes and are selling them at high prices now.
Shortage is inevitable
The virus-induced lockdown has led to suspension of production by cigarette-makers and as a result, the shortage is inevitable. Street-side shops, including some grocer shops remain the major source when it comes to selling cigarettes. Major cigarette stockists and suppliers in Mysuru told ‘Star of Mysore’ that they have stopped bulk supply of cigarettes to the Mysuru market.
Then from where the smokers are getting to steal a drag? “There are some wholesale who still maintain heady stocks and also, boxes of cigarettes make their way into Mysuru from Bengaluru and Chennai in a corner of trucks that supply essential commodities. These stocks find their way into neighbourhood Kirana shops that steadily supply cigarettes to regular and ‘trusted’ customers. Of course, the prices are at a premium.
Gradual increase of prices
During the initial days of the lockdown the selling rate was around 10-15 percent (over MRP). Some of the supermarkets and grocery chains had sufficient stocks and some even displayed packets in locked glass shelves near the entrances.
Subsequently by the end of the first week, the prices inched up to 20-25 percent over MRP. By the third week, the prices went beyond 50 percent of the mark. Now, a smoker has to pay almost the double of MRP. “I had to shell out Rs. 300 for a pack of 10. This is so ridiculous,” said a smoker. On the other hand, retail shopkeepers are blaming distributors and suppliers. “We are getting cigarettes at this cost. What can we do,” asked a shopkeeper who was overcharging customers.
Plans to quit smoking
While some smokers are finding it hard to steal a drag as the lockdown has locked them in with their families, some others still are using the chance to kick the butt. For some regular smokers who now stay with their families, even buying cigarettes in black isn’t an option as they can’t even venture out of their houses. “I wanted to quit smoking since a long time but never had the opportunity. I have not smoked since Mar. 22. I will use this gap to quit puffing,” said a youth who used to smoke five to six cigarettes a day.
Smokers argue that cigarettes are a source of anxiety-relief and stress-busting. For some who are vulnerable to depression and anxiety, quitting is even more difficult.