BAT Sues Government Over Cigarette Ban
British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) has announced that it is suing the government over its decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown.
BATSA which is the country’s largest cigarette manufacturer said in a statement it was supported in this action by Japan Tobacco International as well as “groups and organisations representing the tobacco value chain across the country, including consumers, tobacco farmers and retailers”.
The government has maintained the ban arguing that it needs to safeguard public health because cigarette smokers are more likely to develop severe Covid-19 symptoms than non-smokers. According to co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the ban would mean that a “sizeable number of South Africans” would quit smoking once the lockdown comes to an end – with the “poor and youth … particularly likely to quit”.
BATSA, on the other hand, is arguing that the ban has forced smokers to resort to the illicit markets to satiate their cravings. There are reports that some people who are failing to buy cigarettes have turned to smoking tea leaves and Rooibos seems to be a popular choice. Some people have resorted to making their own homemade cigarettes.
Below is an excerpt from the statement from BATSA on the urgent legal proceedings to challenge the government’s decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales.
“BATSA has made every effort to constructively engage with the government since the ban came into force, including making detailed submissions, along with other interested parties, to various Ministers, as well as directly to the Presidency,” it said in a statement.
“To date, no formal response has been received from the government, and BATSA has also not been included in any of the government’s consultation processes so far.”
The cigarette giant said the ban was threatening the survival of SA’s legal tobacco sector, wit employs thousands.
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