Fita appeals COVID-19 health ban on tobacco sales

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The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) has applied for leave to appeal against the ruling by the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) that the sale of tobacco products should remain banned during the lockdown. A TimesLIVE report notes a full Bench of the High Court dismissed Fita’s application to set aside the regulation banning the sale of tobacco products, holding that cigarettes were not essential.

In its application for leave to appeal, Fita said the court erred in its formulation and definition of the meaning and threshold for “necessary” within the meaning of section 27 of the Disaster Management Act. It also said the court erred in not finding that the regulations under consideration were not rational or necessary within the meaning of section 27 of the Act.

“The court erred in not finding that the medical literature and research relied on by (Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) was not supportive of the ban on the sale of cigarettes and related tobacco products imposed by the regulations,” Fita said.

It added that in the absence of sufficient or credible evidence of a link between the sale of tobacco products and a cessation of smoking and a further link between the sale of tobacco products and an increased strain on the country’s healthcare facilities – for which, it said, there was no satisfactory evidence – there could be no valid or rational basis for the regulations imposing the ban.

The organisation said the court also erred by not answering whether the “ban, as the means adopted by the Minister, (was) objectively rationally justifiable and necessary in achieving the stated objective”. “The appeal is of public importance, has reasonable prospects of success and, accordingly, leave to appeal to the SCA should be granted,” Fita said in its application.

 

A group of companies – including British American Tobacco, retailer Spar and the SA Spaza & Tuckshop Association has written an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet, calling for the ban on tobacco and vaping products to be lifted.

According to a Business Day report, the letter states that the ban has resulted in the loss of R3.5bn in excise taxes and enriched “billionaire criminals in the illegal trade”, money that could have paid for hospitals, 5,000 ventilators and 23m food parcels for the poor.

The letter argues that “corrupt enterprises had thrived beyond their wildest dreams while honest, hardworking citizens have had their hopes crushed”.

Supporting the open letter, founder of Tax Justice SA Yusuf Abramjee said the lockdown tobacco ban “is destroying the livelihoods of honest workers, while criminals in the illicit trade get rich”. “The ban has backfired badly. It has not stopped people smoking but instead has driven them to the black market where organised corrupt networks are making billions,” he said.

 

Full TimesLIVE report Full Business Day report (subscription needed)

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