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BLSA: Govt must consider economy's recovery when deciding on alcohol,tobacco ban

BLSA’s Tebele Luthuli said in order to save the country's battered economy, government needs to get every cent it can from tax revenue.

Picture: Pixabay.com.

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN –Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) is urging government to be flexible when it comes to the ban on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol.

The organisation is the latest to call for the lifting of the ban following recommendations by the South African Medical Research Council.

The council said early on, experts predicted hospital resources would be stretched to the limit, but facilities appear to be coping.

BLSA’s Tebele Luthuli said in order to save the country's battered economy, government needs to get every cent it can from tax revenue.

He said the bans have also fuelled the illicit trade in both tobacco and alcohol, weakening the private sector's contribution to employment opportunities and long-term economic growth.

We support the call on government to rethink decision on the ban of sales alcohol and cigarettes in order to steer SA economy back on to the path to recovery. Despite its honest purpose the unintended purposes of this ban far outweigh whatever positive outcomes it had hoped to achieve.”

Meanwhile, echoing the BLSA’s sentiment, lawyers representing British American Tobacco South Africa (BAT-SA) say the economic cost of the tobacco ban outweighs the benefits.

That's the central argument by BAT-SA in its court challenge to have the ban lifted.

The matter's being heard in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town.

The company adds that the ban, in its current form, infringes on the right to privacy as well as trade rights

The BAT-SA's legal representative Michael Evans said: “vastly outweighs the benefits the whole purpose of the ban is to stop people from smoking to lessen the pressure on the ICUs and the public health system. So that is the real test; to what effect does stopping smoking impact in that way?”

In the High Court on Wednesday, Advocate Alfred Cockrell put the company's case to a panel of three judges.

He quoted a Limpopo tobacco farmer who outlined the difficulty of still having to trade with the ban in place.
Many smokers have to turned to the black market to get their fix after the ban came into effect in March.
Government's argued the ban is aimed at reducing pressure on the health system during the coronavirus outbreak.