Court dismisses appeal against South Africa’s smoking ban

The North Gauteng High Court has dismissed an appeal made by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association against the court’s previous ruling on the country’s tobacco ban.

FITA chairman Sinenhlanhla Mnguni confirmed that the organisation will now petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) for leave to appeal the ruling.

On 26 June 2020, the court dismissed a case filed by FITA which argued that the nationwide ban on the sale of cigarettes was irrational.

After hearing arguments from FITA and the government, the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of the government, which had argued that smoking could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases and death.

It also said that allowing smoking could place further risk on the public health system.

The court found that there was a rational connection between the ban on tobacco sales and an increased strain on South Africa’s healthcare system.

“We are persuaded by the Minister’s submission that FITA’s argument is misconceived as it ignores the context under which the regulations were promulgated.”

Argument for appeal

Following this initial ruling, FITA applied for leave to appeal the ruling.

This case was heard on 15 July 2020, and saw advocate Arnold Subel arguing the case on behalf of the organisation.

Subel said that while nobody disputed smoking was hazardous to people’s health, the banning of tobacco products is irrational and is based on low-quality evidence.

He also argued that the regulations implemented to ban smoking would not have any significant effect on the prevalence of smoking in South Africa.

The North Gauteng High Court has now dismissed this application, which means that FITA will need to take its case to the SCA to proceed further.

Another case surrounding the ban on the sale of tobacco products in South Africa brought by British American Tobacco (BATSA) is set to be heard on 5 and 6 August.

The case was pushed back in what the company called a “worrying” and “inexplicable” delay.

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Court dismisses appeal against South Africa’s smoking ban