British American Tobacco South Africa (BAT South Africa) has always maintained that the tobacco sales ban introduced during the original Covid-19 emergency lockdown was unnecessary and counter-productive.
The High Court agreed with BAT South Africa on this. Now, the Supreme Court of Appeal has endorsed this position too, finding that the ban was unlawful and violated not just the rights of those involved in the tobacco value chain, from farmers to retailers and manufacturers, but also the rights of consumers.
“We welcome this unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court of Appeal,” says Johnny Moloto, General Manager for BAT South Africa.
“The tobacco sales ban during Covid resulted in a rise in the illegal manufacturing, smuggling and illicit tobacco and cigarette sales, and led to the Treasury being deprived of billions of rand in tax revenues.
“That damage continues to this day. South Africa now has one of the biggest and most lucrative illegal cigarette markets in the world, which we attribute to the tobacco sales ban. It is in the interests of all South Africans that authorities tackle this ruthlessly and comprehensively.
“Now is the time for all parties – Treasury, SARS, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Industry – to come to the table together and focus on practical measures to address the rampant illicit cigarette trade. We look forward to engaging positively with Government to address this important challenge.”