WATCH: Fita argues tobacco ban in court

The association launched an urgent application challenging government’s controversial ban on tobacco sales during lockdown.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association’s (Fita) argument against the ban the sale of cigarettes will be heard at the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday morning after it had filed an application regarding the matter.

The judges in the matter decided to use the first day of the case to consider the legal arguments advanced by the opposition parties.

Fita wants the government’s decision to ban tobacco products, which affects an estimated eight million smokers, be declared invalid and set aside in court.

The association will argue that the government’s approach to the issue has been irrational and that no basis or evidence was justifying the decision.

In its court papers, Fita contends the government’s reasoning was irrational that smoking exposes people to adverse forms of Covid-19 – adding that there was no rational consideration given to the harm on the economy.

However, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, deny that the regulation violates the freedom of cigarette smokers and users.

In their affidavits, they also dismiss Fita’s contention that it also violates their members’ right to practice their trade.

Dlamini-Zuma said that she never claimed that the medical research she previously relied on to justify the cigarette ban was “absolutely conclusive”, but she emphasized that “the available evidence does indicate that smokers were at a heightened risk of adverse Covid-19 outcomes”.

Government also said the implementation of the sales prohibition seeks to free up critical resources needed to respond to cases of Covid-19, which would otherwise be occupied by smokers.

Meanwhile, the British American Tobacco South Africa also filed a legal application against the government over the ban on cigarette sales at the Cape Town High Court last week, which gave the government time until Friday afternoon, 5 June to respond to the legal challenge on the ban.

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