Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

BATSA to challenge lockdown tobacco sales ban in court

By Marvin Charles Time of article published May 29, 2020

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Cape Town - British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) has announced its intention to proceed with an urgent court bid to challenge the government's decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during level 3 of the nationwide lockdown. 

BATSA is supported in this action by Japan Tobacco International (JTI), as well as groups and organisations representing the tobacco value chain across the country, including consumers, tobacco farmers and retailers. The tobacco giant said it has made every effort to constructively engage with the government since the ban came into force, including making detailed submissions, along with other interested parties, to various ministers, as well as directly to the Presidency.

To date, no formal response has been received from the government, and it argued it has also not been included in any of the government’s consultation processes so far. 

BATSA initially intended to take the government to court after President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council reversed the decision for the sale of tobacco to continue under level 4. 

BATSA's head of External Affairs Johnny Moloto said: “As it currently stands, under level 3, consumers will once again be able to buy all the products that have been restricted under levels 5 and 4 of the lockdown except for tobacco products. We have always stated our support for the government’s measures to put the country under lockdown in order.

“Government has instead decided to maintain the ban on tobacco products under the guise of limiting the spread of Covid-19 while allowing all other previously banned consumer products to go back on sale.”

Moloto said the ban was having a massive impact on people’s livelihoods. “The government’s continued ban on legal tobacco sales is threatening the survival of the legal tobacco sector and the livelihoods it directly supports. It has only succeeded in significantly growing a massive and nationwide illegal industry at the direct expense of law-abiding businesses, citizens and taxpayers,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) says its challenge to the cigarette ban will be heard on June 9 and 10 before a Full Bench of the High Court. 

Cape Argus

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