Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma argued in court on Thursday that several court rulings in the department’s favor were sufficient proof that the smoking ban was rational and legal. Her department also argues that the government and general retailer are not losing as much money as a result of the ban, as smokers are now spending their money on products other than cigarettes.
The Minister’s legal representative, Adv. Andrew Breitenbach, referred to several rulings by the Gauteng High Court in the case between the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita SA) and the department to reverse the ban. Dlamini-Zuma opposes an application by British American Tobacco (Batsa) to have the nationwide smoking ban set aside. Fita has now also applied to the Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein for leave to appeal against this decision.
Alfred Cockrell SC argued on Wednesday on behalf of Batsa that the minister could not prove that it was absolutely essential for the health system that smokers quit smoking when the ban was introduced. It is in response to this that Breitenbach referred to the recent court rulings, which according to him prove the necessity of the ban.
Breitenbach also argued that the country’s largest cigarette producer had misled the court about the extent of the economic damage and personal suffering of smokers due to the imposition of the ban. He referred to the founding statement of Andre Joubert, CEO of Batsa, in which he said 725,000 people in the tobacco industry would be adversely affected by the ban.
“That figure is actually less than half of what Joubert claims,” Breitenbach said. “Joubert came up with that number by incorrectly including those who work in the overall trading sector.” He argues that retailers will not be so badly affected because “obedient citizens” will stop smoking and spend their money on other household goods in the same stores. Since they also pay taxes on those items, the state will not lose as much tax revenue, he argued. Batsa claims the government loses R35 million in excise tax daily due to the ban.
Breitenbach retorted that the side effects of smoking cost the country R42 billion annually. He also says the side effect of the ban on the industry is only temporary, as the minister will lift the ban “completely” when it is safe to do so.