FITA hails court ruling on 'unnecessary' tobacco sales ban

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  • The Western Cape High Court determined that the tobacco sales ban during South Africa's hard lockdown could not withstand constitutional scrutiny.
  • Until level 2, the sale of tobacco products was prohibited, except for export.
  • FITA's statement comes ahead of an address to the nation by President Cyril Ramaphosa set to take place on Monday evening.


 

Industry body the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association on Monday praised the Western Cape High Court's finding that a ban on the trade of tobacco products during the hard lockdown, aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, was unnecessary.

Until the sales ban was lifted under level 2, lockdown regulations stipulated that "the sale of tobacco, tobacco products, e-cigarettes and related products is prohibited, except for export". The tobacco industry was left to reel under months of restrictions on the trade of their products.

The Western Cape High Court determined on Friday that Regulation 45 - which Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma leaned on to effect the ban - could not stand up to constitutional scrutiny, was unnecessary and would not serve objectives set out in Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act. This was after British American Tobacco SA and other industry members took the minister to court earlier in the year.

The court determination and FITA's statement come ahead of an address to the nation by President Cyril Ramaphosa set to take place on Monday evening.

FITA said it would study the Western Cape High Court judgement in the coming days.

"This (court ruling on the regulations) of course was one of the arguments advanced by FITA in its challenging of the ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco related products, which the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court erred in finding same to be necessary," the statement said.

The FITA statement said legal and tax compliant tobacco producers were willing to assist government with combating the rise of illicit tobacco products which pervaded the market when legal cigarettes and tobacco products were banned during the hard lockdown.

Senior associate at Tutwa Consulting Azwimpheleli Langalanga said sectors hardest hit by the initial lockdown, such as hospitality, will suffer from limits on travelling and limits to the movement of people imposed in the December period.

Langalanga said South Africa did not have the luxury of putting the economy in chains and government should rather focus on getting citizens to appreciate that the virus is here to stay for a long time while getting the economy going again.

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