British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) commences legal proceedings to challenge the government’s decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during level 3 of the COVID-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy.
BAT notes that amid their effort to constructively engage with the government since the ban came into effect, there has been no formal response from the government and has also not been included in any government’s consultation processes.
“To date, no formal response has been received from the government,” they said.
BATSA Head of External Affairs Jonny Moloto said banning of a legal product will have dire consequences, driving millions of smokers to the illicit market, robbing the government of much needed excise tax contributions, undercutting tobacco control regulations, encouraging criminal behaviour and threatening thousand of jobs.
“As it currently stands, under level 3, consumers will once again be able to buy all the products that have been restricted under level 5 and 4 of the lockdown except tobacco products.
Government has decided to maintain the ban on tobacco products under the guise of limiting the spread of COVID-19, while allowing all other previously banned consumer products to back on sale,” he said.
Moloto adds that the government’s continued ban on legal tobacco sales is threatening the survival of the legal tobacco sector and the livelihoods it directly supports.
“It has succeeded in significantly growing a massive and nationwide illegal industry at the direct expense of law-abiding businesses, citizens and taxpayers,” said Moloto.
BATSA is supported in this legal action by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) as well as groups and organisations representing the tobacco value chain across the country, including consumers, tobacco farmers and retailers.