Tobacco association's four main arguments against government ban

06 May 2020 - 07:05 By Cebelihle Bhengu
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) has written to the president about the ban on cigarette sales.
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) has written to the president about the ban on cigarette sales.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) on Monday filed papers at the Pretoria high court outlining its reasons for wanting the government to lift the ban on cigarette sales.

Here are the four main arguments detailed by the association:

1. No link between spread of Covid-19 and cigarettes

Fita argues that the government has failed to demonstrate a scientific link between the spread of Covid-19 and smoking tobacco products. It pointed out that comments made by health minister Zweli Mkhize in support of the ban were limited to the general ills of smoking and did not specifically relate to the potentially deadly disease.

“None of the ministers - most importantly, minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize - has demonstrated how the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes helps in preventing or reducing the spread of Covid-19.”

2. Why is there no ban on junk food?

The reasons given by the government for its ban on cigarettes were health-related, but if this is the main issue, then why are unhealthy food items such as chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks still being sold? Why are they deemed essential items?

“Zwelini Mkhize has been quoted as saying underlying illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic renal diseases have been a pattern for most deaths that have been seen. Many of these illnesses are associated with the consumption of the foods mentioned above, yet dealing in them has not been prohibited,” argues Fita.

3. Smokers have no say

Fita further argues that smokers were excluded from engaging the government before its decision to ban cigarettes. This is in reference to Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said 2,000 people raised health concerns about the sale of cigarettes.

“The second respondent is reported to have placed significant emphasis on approximately 2,000 complaints received from members of the public, pursuant to the first respondent's address to the entire nation. This can hardly be a basis to promulgate regulation 27 having regard to section 27(2) of the enabling act.”

4. Ramaphosa's announcement of unbanning 

The association argues that President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement one week ago that cigarettes would be sold was made without "proper consultation". It claims that manufactures were led to believe that business would resume under level 4 - and smokers that they would be allowed to purchase cigarettes. 

“It is doubtful that the president would have taken that undertaking without proper consultation and without a mandate. This had the effect that there was no need to make representations regarding the sale and 'unbanning' of cigarettes.”