Tobacco lobby groups gear up to fight cigarette sale ban

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The Fair trade Independent Tobacco (FITA) association has filed a court application challenging government’s ban on the sale of cigarettes after President Cyril Ramaphosa came out in defence of the decision in his weekly letter in which he asserts that the decision was taken collectively.

Ramaphosa’s comments followed British American Tobacco’s threat to take legal action against Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – if her office could not offer a formal response about why the ban cigarette sales remain in place.

British American Tobacco and the FITA have been lobbying government to lift the ban on cigarette sales even before Level 4 lockdown regulations were announced.

The two entities are pursuing separate court action against government over the sustained ban on cigarette sales.

FITA Chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni says, “We are bringing a completely separate application to the one that is being brought by British American Tobacco.  I accept that the merits of our cases may be very similar, a lot of issues may overlap. However it is good to see that many players along the tobacco value chain are not just limited to the two entities, court actions are unified in challenging this ban on the sale of cigarettes.”

Mguni says the ban continues to have far-reaching economic implications for those directly involved in the tobacco industry value chain.

“You would understand firstly that the industry employs a number of people starting from the beginning stages where there are farm workers and farmers, and you have the processors, the manufacturers, and the factory workers and then you have retailers which comprise hawkers and spaza shop owners. So what we’re saying is that the economic impact is quite significant especially when you factor in the illicit trade of cigarettes is currently thriving as legitimate sales are not permitted during the lockdown period,” says Mnguni.

Smoking could be criminalised under lockdown in the video below


The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) says it supports the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the national lockdown – as smoking tobacco compromises the respiratory system, which is most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

NCAS Director Savera Kalideen says, “It’s very clear because we are in the middle of a health pandemic. The virus affects the respiratory system and tobacco compromises the immune system as well as affects the respiratory system very severely.”

“Government has the responsibility to take action in the interest of public health. We are getting new evidence about the pandemic on a daily basis – we, the government and the WHO are learning all of the time. That creates a justification for them to change their minds, which is the situation that we find ourselves in,” says Kalideen.

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has reported that it has thus far lost R1.5 billion in sin-tax revenue since the implementation of lockdown.

FITA takes government to court over sale of cigarettes ban