According to reports, British American Tobacco (BAT) South Africa, says it will not be pursuing legal action against the government’s ban on the sale of cigarettes.
At the beginning of May, BAT described the government’s decision to continue the ban on the sale of tobacco products under level 4 restrictions as “bizarre and irregular”.
However, in a recent statement, it said, “We have taken the decision not to pursue legal action at this stage but, instead, to pursue further discussions with government on the formulation and application of the regulations under the Covid-19 lockdown.”
BAT SA reportedly said it has received a response to a letter addressed to the National Command Council (NCC) at the end of April. The tobacco company, which has a 78% share in South Africa’s legal cigarette market, made no mention of the contents of the letter.
It says it is now “convinced that by working together we can find a better solution that works for all South Africans and removes the threat of criminal sanction from 11 million tobacco consumers in the country”.
BAT SA reiterated its view that “illicit traders are the only beneficiaries of the ban on tobacco sales”.
It proposes that established retailers be allowed to sell tobacco products where social distancing can be ensured, saying the illegal cigarette trade holds a higher risk for smokers and their families.
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association’s (FITA) legal action against the South African government will be heard in court next week. However, BAT SA is not a member of FITA.
FITA, in court papers lodged earlier in the week, argued there is “no basis to contend the prohibition of cigarette and tobacco products is related to combating the Covid-19 virus”.
The ban on the sale of cigarette and tobacco products started on 26 March when the nationwide lockdown commenced, it now continues under level 4 of the lockdown which has been in place since the start of May.