Cape Times

Court sees cigarette ban go up in puff of smoke


THERE'S been widespread welcoming of the Western Cape High Court's finding that the imposed tobacco ban on the nation was inconsiste­nt with the Constituti­on.

The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditiona­l Affairs (Cogta) has now said it would study and take guidance from the finding, which also found that the “no smoking” regulation was not necessary.

British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) and others had taken Cogta, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronaviru­s Command Council to court in May over the ban on tobacco product sales.

Cogta and the government had argued that the ban was aimed at reducing the occupation of intensive care unit (ICU) beds by smokers, adding that if people didn't smoke they would likely not get Covid-19 in a severe form.

The SA Drug Policy Initiative (Sadpi) has been the latest to welcome the verdict, saying the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the country's Covid-19 lockdown was not “based in law or science”.

The initiative's Dr Keith Scott said they agreed with the court's ruling “wholeheart­edly”.

“The decision was not based in law or science.

“In essence there was no proof that banning cigarettes will reduce the load of sick people on hospital services because their argument was that long-term smoking does cause disease or a weakened immune system. But smoking over a short period of time has not been shown to put people at high risk of getting Covid,” he said.

Cogta spokespers­on Lungi Mtshali said the Cabinet would study the judgment and the department would take guidance from it.

Adam van Wyngaarden, founder and chief executive of Smokey Treats, said the ruling was a step forward in the fight against state capture and the illicit trade.

“The ban – and the fear that it would return – has made growing a start-up eco-cigarette company even more challengin­g than it ever had to be,” Van Wyngaarden said.

According to a recent UCT study conducted by Professor Corné van Walbeek, the director of Economics of Excisable Products, and two colleagues, Kirsten van der Zee and Sam Filby, “the cigarette market has normalised after the sales ban was lifted, but is not the same as before”.

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