Tobacco group withdraws long-running legal challenge against cigarette ban

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The ban on the sale of tobacco may have been lifted earlier in the month, but that doesn't mean the clash between tobacco manufacturers and the state has ended, as both sides position themselves to fight a possible future prohibition.

While cigarettes could again be bought and sold from August 18, the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association did not immediately withdraw its legal action against the ban.

The tobacco group's initial challenge to have the cigarette ban overturned was dismissed with costs in June. It then applied for and was granted leave to appeal. 

Now, after receiving assurances from the state attorney that Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, would allow for a public participation process if a new ban were considered, the association says it has, at last, stopped its legal action. 

"FITA will withdraw its appeal and the parties will each pay their own costs in respect of the litigation in both the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal," it said in a statement. 

A letter from the state attorney to FITA, on Tuesday, said the offer to embark on the public participation process, if a new ban were considered, was a "good faith attempt to resolve this matter". The state noted this did not, however, mean that the public participation process was required by law.

The attorney did not agree to another request from FITA that it specifically be approached to make representations if a new ban were considered. 

"Any invitation to, or announcement of, a consultation process will be issued publicly. FITA would then be free to participate in that process, but would not be specifically invited to do so."

British American Tobacco SA, the country's largest tobacco manufacturer, is meanwhile still waiting for the outcome of its separate legal action against the ban. The challenge was heard in the Western Cape High Court on August 5. 

The outcome of the case will be likely help set a precedent for how future cases are decided if the ban is renewed. 

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