BATSA: 'What level of justification do you need for this tobacco ban?'
Cape Town - The legal tussle between British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) and the government continued until late into Thursday night as closing arguments were heard.
On Thursday, the state backed up the ban of the sale of tobacco using medical studies, and emphasised the ban would be lifted once it was safe to do so.
Judgment has been reserved.
Advocate Karrish Pillay, who represents Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said according to the World Health Organization, smoking was a risk factor when associated with Covid-19.
“Smokers are at higher risk of a fatal outcome. This is why the prohibition was necessary. Medical studies support the minister's decision,” she said.
Pillay said Dlamini Zuma had a duty to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives. She said it was not necessary for a large number of studies to take the decision to ban tobacco.
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 Southern African Agri Initiative (Saai) is also part of Batsa’s court bid, representing the tobacco farmers.
Closing arguments were made and the three presiding judges said they would want to finish the matter.
The state's legal representative, Andrew Breitenbach, told the court the intention of the ban was to reduce the incidence of smoking to reduce pressure on the health service.
“The government doesn't expect a complete cessation of smoking. It hasn't led to a reduction in the number of people who smoke,” he said.
Batsa lawyer Alfred Cockrell said: “These are real people who are suffering real harm. What real justification do we need from a minister that inflicts this massive ban?
"The government does not only harm itself, it does harm to the people. There are applicants involved, some who are smokers, small business owners, tobacco farmers. What level of justification do you need for this ban?”