British American Tobacco to take legal action over cigarette ban

The tobacco ban will continue under level 3 of the national lockdown.

British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) announced on Friday that it has decided to pursue legal action against the government over the ban on cigarette sales.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a media briefing on Sunday that the ban on cigarettes will continue under alert Level 3 while alcohol sales will be allowed.

Batsa’s announcement comes after the company withdrew their decision to go ahead with legal proceedings after it indicated that it wished to find a practical solution to the ban on sales, and help curb the illegal market that had emerged earlier this month.

The company said in a statement that their decision to take legal action was supported by Japan Tobacco International as well as “groups and organisations representing the tobacco value chain across the country, including consumers, tobacco farmers and retailers”.

“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.

“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 company added.

Media reports last week said that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had argued against the lifting of the ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products during the meeting of the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), producing research to back up her argument.

Numerous opposition parties including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) came in to support Dlamini-Zuma following the criticism she has been facing over the ban for the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) also launched an urgent application challenging government’s controversial ban on tobacco sales during the national lockdown.