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Legal purchase of cigarettes unlikely before May 26, even as industry challenges ban

Smokers could be in for a long haul as court challenges to the ban on the sale of tobacco products get under way.
Smokers could be in for a long haul as court challenges to the ban on the sale of tobacco products get under way.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) is pursuing legal action to set aside disaster regulations and declare tobacco products as essential goods.

The organisation filed papers at the Pretoria high court on Monday.

On May 12, the court is expected to hear the application to declare that tobacco products fall into the category of agro-processing and constitute permitted goods and for the export of the products to be permitted.

On May 26 Fita will be seeking an order declaring cigarettes and tobacco products are essential goods. Fita, on that date, also wants the court to set aside regulations passed in March prohibiting cigarette sales and an order declaring that the sale of tobacco products and cigarettes is lawful.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced previously that at the end of the level 5 lockdown on April 30, the sale of tobacco products would be permitted. However, last Wednesday, co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the ban would remain after public comments advised against it.

“Government took that into consideration, debated the merits, looked at it and decided that we must continue as we are when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco products and related items that we should not open up for sale,” she said.

The Sunday Times quoted minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu at the weekend as saying the government was willing to take its case to court, as it has valid reasons for insisting on the ban.

A public petition calling for cigarettes and tobacco products to be sold legally has so far garnered 494,147 signatures.

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