Saturday, 09 January 2021 13:40

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Photo Credit: Istock.

The government said its decision to appeal the tobacco ban ruling would not necessarily result in the reintroduction of a ban of tobacco products during the lockdown.

This week, the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, together with President Cyril Ramaphosa, confirmed they would appeal the Western Cape High Court judgment that the ban on the trade of tobacco products during the hard lockdown — aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 — was unconstitutional.

The case was brought by tobacco traders, including British American Tobacco SA (BATSA), after the sale of tobacco products was banned.

It was prohibited for about five and a half months from March 29 until August 18.

The Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs said the government’s appeal did not mean another ban was on the cards.

In the judgment, the court found that Regulation 45 — which Dlamini Zuma used to effect the ban — could not stand up to constitutional scrutiny, was unnecessary and would not serve objectives set out in Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act.

The court also found Regulation 45 limited smokers' and vapers' rights to human dignity because it denied them the choice of buying tobacco products.

Meanwhile the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), fears the worst.

FITA’s chairman, Sinen Mnguni, said they were worried government would reintroduce the tobacco ban in the upcoming few weeks.

"At this point, it would be speculative to attribute too much meaning to government’s appealing of the Western Cape High Court decision.

"Nonetheless, it is indicative that government may in future want to again implement the ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco related products if they feel it is warranted."

"At this point we have not received any indication from government that they intend implementing another tobacco ban.

"However, with the rising numbers and government’s decision to appeal the ruling of the Western Cape High Court, one would not be wrong to think that another ban could be in government’s thoughts."

He said the reintroduction of the tobacco ban would be disastrous for the tobacco industry.

We are fearful of another ban coming into place. The industry has still not recovered from the effects of the initial ban and another ban would be nothing short of disastrous.

"It would only serve to encourage the criminals plying their trade in the illicit economy and rob the fiscus and the people of this country of billions."

Fita also felt government's decision to appeal the high court's ruling was unnecessary.

Batsa, who led the fight against government, chose not to respond. Batsa's Johnny Moloto said: "We are not commenting at this stage."