Tobacco giant BAT

Tobacco Giant BATSA Flexes Legal Muscles Against Continued COVID-19 Cigarette Ban

Tobacco South Africa COVID-19

Tobacco Giant,  British American (BATSA) grew justifiably impatient with the South African Government’s continued ban on tobacco products. Their requests for consultation with the Ministers and government departments never went anywhere, according to an article in  Fin24 today. BAT is now taking legal action against the government.

Tobacco giant, BATSA revealed people buy illicit cigarettes

The company publicly stated on several occasions that they firmly believe  “illicit traders are the only beneficiaries of the ban on tobacco sales,” according to The Citizen. And many South Africans agree. South African smokers know this for a fact as many openly seek to feed their habit. And why shouldn’t they? The government turned normal citizens exercising their human right of choice, into criminals. It is ludicrous, critics believe.

The economy in South Africa struggled before COVID-19 and currently slides downhill rapidly right at the time Government needs money the most. The burden of tax already sits heavy on South African taxpayers. And, they ultimately become the biggest losers if allowed to continue.

April 30, Edward Kietswetter spoke about SARS revenue loss

As far back as April 30th, the head of SARS, Edward Kietswetter informed Parliament of bad news. The combined loss of revenue under the alcohol and cigarette ban exceeded R1.5 billion. Somehow, that loss has to be made up. And, the burden falls on the person still earning any money by the end of June 2020.

A little perspective on the loss: R1.5 billion could build approximately 200 schools or buy 2.5 million lung ventilators. Surely even non-smokers perceive the need for addressing the tax income problem. Tobacco sales would go a long way toward addressing the tax deficit.

BATSA withdrew their original court action on the tobacco ban

The Citizen reported in early May, at the start of the Level 4 lockdown, that BAT withdrew their court case against the government. At the beginning of Level 5, the president announced tobacco would be available. But just days later, that got overturned.  Preparing for court, BATSA later withdrew their case in favor of negation despite the Level 4 regulations continuing the ban.

They believed negotiation presented a sensible way forward. However, with the cigarette ban extended in Level 3.  It looks like they lose patience with the government. While British Tobacco (SA) originally pulled their court case, the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita), continued their fight. However, it’s not likely the case starts for at least another couple of weeks.
Do you think that if the Tobacco giant stayed with the court appeal in the first place, they might already have settled the cigarette ban? Many smokers now complain that BATSA came late to the party. Sound off your thoughts in the comments below.

Remember to check back with SAns Newsfeed for more news and opinions about South Africa’s tobacco ban.


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