South Africa

Tobacco sales ban violates consumer rights, free trade rights - Batsa

CAPE TOWN - The legal battle to unban the sale of tobacco products continues.

British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) is spearheading the challenge in the Western Cape High Court.

Batsa said that its application was different to the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association's (Fita).

Batsa lawyer Alfred Cockrell said that the key argument in the matter was that the ban violated the rights of consumers, including, the right to dignity, privacy and to bodily and psychological integrity.

"The applicant, my clients, have to show that constitutional rights have been violated. If we show that, the burden then shifts to the government to show that the limitation of constitutional rights is justified."

He added that the right to free trade had also been violated.

Cockrell mentioned that two categories of citizens whose right to choose to trade had been violated by the regulations - the tobaccoless and tobacco farmers.

"...not like a Pick n Pay that has a cigarette counter and that counter is now closed, at least I imagine it's closed, but the rest of the shop is open. If all you do is sell tobacco products, then your shop is not going to be open because there is nothing you can sell."

He argued that because Batsa was not buying processed tobacco for cigarettes, farmers could not sell their tobacco and were likely to go out of business.

Cockrell added that they had questions around government's reasoning that smoking carried a risk of a more severe form of COVID-19.

"Is there an association between smoking and contracting a more severe form of COVID-19? Will that association be reversed or at least reduced if a smoker stops smoking during the pandemic?"

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