Reports say the South African government could be facing a court case to lift the ban on the sale of cigarettes.
On Friday the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) reportedly said it was pursuing a legal route to have the ban on the sale of cigarettes lifted.
The organisation said it had received numerous queries, submissions and messages of support, seeking to establish what their next steps are going to be in relation to the ban.
Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, the organisation’s chairperson, said in a statement that they have been consulting with their legal teams and “have come to the decision to approach the courts for the appropriate relief vis-à-vis the ban on the sale of cigarettes”.
“The uncertainty around the current restrictions and whether or not the lockdown period would be extended beyond the current end date left us with little choice but to take such a drastic step. We tried long and hard to engage with government on this issue but our pleas rather, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears,” Mnguni said.
He said they requested that government allow the distribution and sale of cigarettes at retail stores, spaza shops and filling stations. These are all places where citizens are currently permitted to purchase, what has been classified as, essential goods.
“This would give the economy a much-needed boost and avoid a situation where our citizens, out of desperation, contravene the regulations of the lockdown en masse,” Mnguni’s statement read.
Mnguni says the “simple truth” was that the current regulations would hurt the industry and “cannot be endured for much longer by the various role players along the tobacco industry value chain without severe consequences for all”.
“We are also seeing the illicit trade flourish whilst the legitimate tobacco industry is prevented from participating.”
“The long and short of this is that the regulations have not stopped people from buying cigarettes during the lockdown period. People are sourcing cigarettes and other goods from underground markets to the detriment of the fiscus,” he said.