The Pretoria High Court has dismissed, with costs, the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association’s (Fita) application to have the banning of tobacco products sales declared as essential.
The judgment was released on Friday afternoon, with the full bench of the court saying Fita’s argument against the government that cigarettes ought to be considered “essential” – because they are addictive – had no merit.
Fita took the government – through Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – to court, arguing that the products should have been sold since level five.
It argued that the prohibition impeded on people’s right to choice and their understanding of tobacco products as essential service.
The court said it agreed with the minister’s submission that seen in the proper context, the level five regulations could not be interpreted as including tobacco in the basic goods categorisation – which were allowed to be sold.
It agreed with government that “many industries were restricted as a goal of curbing and managing the pandemic”.
The category included food, cleaning and hygiene products, medical and basic goods.
The judgment reads that this makes it clear – that the general term “essential goods” was qualified by specific subcategories of goods listed in the regulations and were life-sustaining and necessary for survival and for basic functionality.
It ultimately found that cigarettes and related tobacco products do not, by their nature, fall into the same category.
The court will hear similar arguments from British American Tobacco and 16 others in August.