South African high court dismisses application to reverse cigarette ban

A South African court has dismissed an application by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) to reverse the government ban on the sale of tobacco, including vapour products, in the country following the outbreak of COVID-19.

The judgement by the Pretoria High Court defends the political action taken by the government and denies FITA’s claim to consider tobacco products “essential goods”.

“The fact that a substance is addictive does not render it essential. We, therefore, find no basis on which to interpret the level five regulations as permitting the sale of tobacco products,” reads the judgement.

Many products and services, the court said, were prohibited during the lockdown period insofar as they were defined as non-essential and many industries were restricted as a goal of curbing and managing the pandemic.

“Differential or preferential treatment for tobacco products and or the tobacco industry cannot be countenanced as tobacco products were simply not considered to be essential,” it said.




Subscribe to our Newsletter

Join in to hear about news, events, and podcasts in the sector

    See more

    FITA’s chairman Sinenhlanhla Mnguni told TobaccoIntelligence that the association was disappointed by the ruling.

    “We are studying the judgement and consulting with our legal representatives with a view to possibly appealing the ruling. We will notify the public once we are ready to make further announcements on this issue,” Mnguni said.

    The FITA court challenge followed the announcement in late March by the South African government to ban the sale of tobacco products and alcohol as part of the country’s national lockdown measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

    Announcing the ban, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s minister of cooperative governance, argued that besides the effects of tobacco on a smoker’s lungs there were concerns that smoking could promote coronavirus infection.


    What This Means: Although nationwide lockdown in South Africa was eased a few days ago, the ban on the sale of cigarettes is still in effect.

    The Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) conducted an online survey with 16,000 smokers which found that the tobacco sales ban had created a boom in the black market, dominated by locally manufactured brands. About 16% of respondents had successfully quit smoking during the lockdown.

     Andrew Mambondiyani TobaccoIntelligence contributing writer

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    Author default picture


    This article was written by one of TobaccoIntelligence’s international correspondents. We currently employ more than 40 reporters around the world to cover individual nicotine markets.

    Our Key Benefits

    The global novel nicotine market is in an opaque regulatory environment that requires professionals to be on top of industry developments to make informed decisions and optimise their strategy.

    TobaccoIntelligence provides organisations with leading market and regulatory data analysis to anticipate and understand market developments globally and the impact of regulatory changes to the business.

    • Stay informed of any legal and market change in the sector that impacts your organisation
    • Maximise resources by getting market and legal data analysis daily in one place
    • Make smart decisions by understanding how the regulatory and market landscape evolves
    • Anticipate risks in your decisions by monitoring regulatory changes that impact your organisation