While Dlamini-Zuma insists that the ban had eased the burden on hospitals and reduced the prospect of contagion, public health experts argued that it just fuelled the black market.
The bans on tobacco products and alcohol sales were set in place last March, and sadly, included safer alternatives such as e-cigarettes and snus. Naturally, this had angered many public health experts and vaping advocates. Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) chief executive Asanda Gcoyi, reiterated that regulating cigarettes and safer alternatives in the same manner sends the wrong message.
In response to the ban, Big Tobacco companies Japan Tobacco International (JPI) and British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA), together with The South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) had sued the South African government on grounds that the action was unconstitutional as it infringed citizens’ rights.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma responded to the lawsuit by filing papers with the Supreme Court of Appeal on a non-urgent basis. Give that the action follows the implementation of stricter Covid-related restrictions, many are taking this as a sign that the sales ban that had lasted for almost five months in 2020, may be reimposed.
The bans disadvantages outweighed its advantages
Despite the controversy and criticism that the tobacco and alcohol ban had attracted, Dlamini-Zuma argues that it had eased the burden on hospitals and reduced the prospect of contagion. However public health experts had pointed out that it just fuelled the black market.
“Our findings suggest that the ban on cigarette sales is failing in what it was supposed to do,” reported the researchers. “While the original intention of the ban was to support public health, the current disadvantages of the ban may well outweigh the advantages. Smokers are buying cigarettes in large quantities, despite the lockdown, and unusual brands are becoming prevalent,” said researchers from the University of Cape Town, who looked into how people were being affected by the tobacco ban.
Gugulethu Samkange, an advocate in the High Court reassured that the appeal doesn’t yet affect the ruling on the ban. “Government would have to bring a new court application to ban tobacco sales if they decide it is necessary,” she said. “However, that application would have to have facts saying that the situation had changed.”
Moreover last August, Dlamini-Zuma had agreed that if another tobacco sales ban were to be considered, she would hold a public consultation process before implementing it.
Read Further: Bloomberg