South Africa’s government has requested more time to defend its cigarette ban in court.
State attorney Arista Wasserman has written the judge president of Gauteng to request that the initial hearing in the challenge against the ban brought by the Fair Trade Tobacco Association be postponed in light of the pressures facing the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, including the coronavirus pandemic.
South Africa banned the sale of tobacco at the start of the nationwide lockdown in late March, citing health reasons. The ban was extended under level 4 and again under level 3 of the lockdown. The government has argued that smoking leads to more severe cases of Covid-19, and the ban is necessary to reduce strain on the country’s health system.
The Federation of International Trade Associations, whose members include Carnilinx and Gold Leaf Tobacco, petitioned the court in May to reauthorize the sale of tobacco products.
British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) last week lodged a separate legal challenge against the ban. According to BATSA, the ban has cost it between ZAR300 million ($17.64 million) and ZARR350 million in lost revenues per week. It estimates that about ZAR2.4 billion has been lost in tax revenue during the first eight weeks of lockdown.