Cigarette ban is ‘improverishing’ decent citizens – British American Tobacco SA

South Africa

Johannesburg – British American Tobacco South Africa says that the fight to get the ban on cigarette sales lifted has been “long and extremely frustrated”, and it is looking forward to the matter being swiftly resolved by the courts.

South Africa’s largest cigarette manufacturer lodged a case to challenge the state’s ban on the sales of cigarettes and tobacco product which has been enforced since the start of lockdown in late March.

The government says the ban is necessary due to health reasons.

The court challenge was heard over two days in the Western Cape High Court this week where judgment was reserved.

“We look forward to a swift end to this excessive, unconstitutional and unworkable prohibition, which is impoverishing decent citizens, enriching criminals and destroying jobs and livelihoods,” said BATSA’s Head of External Affairs, Johnny Moloto.

In court, the company argued that the government has not justified the ban in law or science.

BATSA says the ban has led to R4.5 billion in lost excise taxes and put 300 000 jobs at risk. Smokers have also been forced to buy unregulated products from the underground market at exorbitant prices, contributing to a rise in illicit trade and entrenching crime.

“This has been a long and extremely frustrating battle for all of us,” said Moloto.

The government has argued that emerging research shows smoking leads to more severe cases of Covid-19, and the prohibition is necessary to reduce strain on SA’s health system.

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