TEL AVIV (Jul. 4)
Grown men wept, fistfights broke out and police were forced to intervene to quell a near riot outside the Dubek cigarette factory in Ramat Gan which resumed production today after a shutting down a week ago because the ceiling on cigarette prices was too low.
Dubek has a monopoly of domestic tobacco products. The government’s emergency economic program allows it to raise prices, but, according to Dubek executives, not enough to pay the higher commissions demanded by the distributors.
The distributors refuse to distribute, the tobacco shelves remain empty and hundreds of smoke-starved Israelis laid siege to the plant where the precious stuff is made. Veteran Dubek employes told reporters they had not seen such sights in more than 30 years working there.
The need for cigarettes was apparently so acute that frustrated smokers tried to climb the wire mesh fences surrounding the factory. Many cried bitterly as they begged for a pack or two, or even a single butt. Plant managers took pity. They tossed several cartons from the windows. They stopped after it became apparent that many in the eager crowd who snatched them were not desperate smokers but black market operatives who sold the free cigarettes immediately at many times their normal price.
Fisticuffs broke out because the distributors, holding out for higher commissions, tried to block the crowd from reaching the plant. Dubek said it could not meet the distributors’ demands because the 40 percent price increase allowed would not begin to cover their inflated costs.