Smokers launch own legal battle against tobacco ban

A smoker can be seen puffing his cigarette on a street corner near the Pretoria High Court, 15 July 2020, Pretoria. Today FITA the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association's application for appealing the High Court's decision to dismiss their previous challenging of the cigarette ban during the lockdown period was heard. Picture: Jacques Nelles

A group of smokers arguing that the tobacco ban is affecting their physical and mental health negatively, are taking the fight to government on their own, amid several other legal challenges by tobacco companies.

Government is facing another court challenge to its ban on tobacco sales – only this time, smokers are taking it on.

Justice for RSA – an NPC, newly formed off the back of a Facebook group called ‘#Smokers Against Lockdown Cigarette Ban’ – has launched an urgent direct access application in the Constitutional Court, to have the ban thrown out.

This is not the first challenge to the ban since it came into effect back in March and both the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) and British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) have cases pending before the courts.

READ MORE ABOUT THE CASE: Tobacco ban is killing smokers

This is, however, the first challenge levelled by ordinary South Africans as opposed to big tobacco.

Justice for RSA director Bradley Hirner said while tobacco products were widely viewed as a ‘guilty pleasure,’ they were, for many, the difference “between normal life and chaos.”

“There is clear evidence that individuals with a history of depressive disorders and substance use disorders are at a high risk of relapse due to nicotine withdrawal,” Hirner said.

He said very few of the 57,000 odd members of his Facebook group had given up smoking in the wake of the ban.

Hirner labelled the ban an infringement on smokers’ constitutional rights – and an unjustifiable one at that – and urged the Constitutional Court justices to hear the case.

They had, as of yesterday afternoon, not yet handed down their decision.

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