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Are smokers in trouble as Gov appeal suspends court ruling?

Are smokers in trouble as Gov appeal suspends court ruling?
"FITA says this step by the Government is worrisome in that it signals the potential arrival of yet another cigarette sales ban."

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The tobacco battles continue, seeing Government refusing to admit defeat. It is now appealing last year’s court ruling, regarding the ban on the sale of tobacco products, which was classified as unconstitutional.

In summary, the tobacco industry was defended by a Western Cape High Court Ruling—which ruled that Regulation 45 – promulgated as part of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown regulations, was inconsistent with the Constitution, and therefore unlawful.

Read more about the case: Tobacco thumps Gov in court, alcohol fights to prevent regulations, plus Xolani Dube gives his forecast

In light of Government’s odd decision to see the ruling overturned, British American Tobacco SA, and other tobacco traders, including Limpopo Tobacco Processor and South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA), are preparing to oppose the application.

The chairperson of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, states, “We note the decision by the Government to appeal the decision of the full bench of the Western Cape High Court, which held that that Regulation 45 of the lockdown level 3 regulations cannot and does not withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Additionally, he adds that FITA feels this step by the Government is regrettable, given the irreparable harm on the tobacco industry along its value chain.

Especially as the five-month-long ban led to the exponential and unabated growth of the illicit cigarette market, this, in turn, had a severe knock-on effect on the increased losses during the fiscus, as fewer taxes could be collected.

With concerns around the motivation for Government appealing the ruling, Mnguni says, “This step by the Government is further worrisome in that it signals the potential arrival of yet another cigarette sales ban, given that the pending appeal will suspend the operation of the Western Cape High Court Judgement until this matter is properly ventilated before the courts.”

FITA further states, it has previously reached an agreement with the officials, that should there be future cigarette bans in the pipeline, the Government will first consult them.

Following FITA’s statement, SATTA (South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance) has responded and slammed the association. SATTA’s Zachariah Motsumi states, “FITA abandoned its own poorly constructed and losing legal action against the tobacco ban and then, proudly and inexplicably, announced that it had done a deal with the Government.” To date, there are no new plans to implement another tobacco ban. But with immense focus circulating the tobacco industry, what are your thoughts on the situation?

How do you feel about the Government appealing the Western Cape High Court ruling? Do you believe the tobacco industry will be able to thwart the appeal?

Share your views with us in the comment section below. 

Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer

Edited: Calvin Swemmer

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