Tobacco ban has led to blossoming of illicit trade: Fita's court appeal
There is no evidence that the ban on the sale of tobacco products alleviates the burden on the health-care system.
This is an argument put forward by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) in its application for leave to appeal against a Pretoria high court ruling that dismissed its challenge against the ban on the sale of cigarettes.
In a virtual hearing on Wednesday, Arnold Subel SC appeared on behalf of Fita and argued that the case was of national importance. This, he said, was one of the grounds for an appeal.
“Even on the [co-operative governance & traditional affairs] minister's [Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma] own approach, it has not been demonstrated that the ban has any impact on the health-care system. It needs to be demonstrated that the long-term effects of banning smoking are going to alleviate the burden on the health-care system,” Subel argued.
“When one looks at the evidence relied upon, there is low quality of evidence. What was relied upon was inconclusive. It could never be sufficient.”
Subel argued that the experts who considered the matter did not have the justification for the ban.
He contended there were reasonable prospects that another court would reach a different conclusion.
“There is a reasonable prospect that the SCA [Supreme Court of Appeal] will find the ban was not necessary."
The ban on the sale of tobacco products, Subel argued, had not stopped anyone from smoking.
“Realistically, experience has always demonstrated that ultimately smokers will source tobacco. The sale of tobacco cannot be prevented.”
The ban had fuelled a “blossoming” illicit cigarette trade, Subel said.
“There is a reasonable prospect that the SCA would find that a far more serious risk is posed to health and the burden on the health system by illicit products being sold and used - products which are not regulated and controlled as they should be under national legislation, and which most likely contain most dangerous substances and additives,” he argued.
“The shutting down of an entire industry was not rationally justifiable nor necessary because of a speculative possibility.
"A vast number of people derived their livelihoods from the tobacco industry, and it is their only means to survive. The collapse of an industry and the job losses from farm workers to retailers is highly prejudicial,” Subel argued.
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