South African Government Was Sued By Tobacco Companies Over Smoking Ban

The Tobacco companies sue South African as the lockdown ban on the sale of tobacco lifts, bizarre and irregular prohibition.

Tobacco films are determined to move forward with litigation against the South African government for its banning of tobacco products during the nearly five month coronavirus lockdown.

The tobacco ban – the only one of its kind worldwide – was imposed under the 2002 Disaster Management Act, the government justifying it on health grounds based on advice from its medical experts as well as from the World Health Organization (WHO).

But South African ban on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol was lifted on Monday, as part of the easing of measures imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

An organisation representing 80 percent of Cigarette manufacturers in South Africa, Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA),  brought forward a court application on May 4 against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

FITA said no rational connection between the cigarette ban and the aim of the state of disaster declaration which is to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

But organisations such as the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa have supported the ban.

Litigation going forward

FITA’s challenge dismissed by the Pretoria High Court on June 26, ruling that Dlamini-Zuma acted reasonably with a view to save lives when she banned tobacco products.

While the Supreme Court granted FITA the right to appeal on Friday.

Sinhlenhle Mnguni, FITA president said the association would proceed with its lawsuit. But, the FITA initially wanted to compel the government to reintroduce the sale of tobacco products, since the ban was removed on Monday, it now seeks an order prohibiting the government from banning tobacco sales again.

Report claim that, FITA Dlamini-Zuma was not empowered to ban tobacco products under the Disaster Management Act, which they said only empowers the minister to make regulations “rationally connected” to preventing or controlling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Disaster Management Act was previously used to halt xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa in June 2008. It was also invoked during the 2010-2011 floods in different parts of the country.

Medical evidence does not support the minister’s decision to ban tobacco products, and the move was made in a non-consultative and undemocratic way.

Banning tobacco, the government went against the main objective of lockdown whch was to prevent people from moving around, pushing them to go out and seek cigarettes on the black market.

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