Fita's cigarette ban case against government will be heard today

Judges in the matter, which affects an estimated eight million smokers, used day one to consider the legal arguments.

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JOHANNESBURG - Oral arguments in the court case against the decision to ban the sale of cigarettes will be heard in the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday morning.

Judges in the matter - which affects an estimated eight million smokers - elected to use the first day of the case – Tuesday – to consider the legal arguments advanced by the parties.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) wants the government’s decision prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products declared invalid and set aside.

Fita will argue that the government’s approach to the issue has been irrational, and that no basis or evidence is justifying the decision.

In its court papers, the organisation contends the government’s reasoning is irrational that smoking exposes people to adverse forms of COVID-19 – adding that there is no rational consideration given to the harm on the economy.

Government, through respondents in the matter, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, deny that the regulation violates the freedom of cigarette smokers and users.

In their affidavits, they also dismiss Fita's contention that it also violates their members’ right to practice their trade.

Government also says the implementation of the sales prohibition seeks to free up critical resources needed to respond to cases of COVID-19, which would otherwise be occupied by smokers.