Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has asked the courts to dismiss the application by a tobacco association which has challenged government's ban on cigarette sales.
The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) approached the Pretoria High Court in May, seeking that the regulation on tobacco products – which could extend until Level 1 lockdown restrictions – be set aside.
Safeguarding public health
On Wednesday 3 June, Dlamini-Zuma submitted an answering affidavit at the court, which cited "studies" stating that smoking could result in more severe COVID-19 symptoms, among other things.
She said that the tobacco-related regulation imposed by the government's National Command Council (NCC) was put in place to prevent a possible strain on public health, with South Africa still anticipating a period of peak infections in the coming weeks.
"Prohibiting the sale of tobacco products during level 4 of the lockdown serves to reduce these risks," Dlamini-Zuma said.Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Experts back tobacco ban
Her view is supported by Professor Kennedy Nyamande – a pulmonology expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, whose affidavit is cited in the document.
Another expert on the subject in support of government's tobacco ban is Catherine Egbe – head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council.
Dlamini-Zuma said banning the sale of tobacco products was an approach fitting of a "responsible government".
"Prohibiting the sale of tobacco products during lockdown serves to reduce these risks, not only in respect of smokers themselves, but also those who would otherwise be exposed to second-hand smoke under lockdown conditions."Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Cogta Minister
Meanwhile, following the High Court's judgement stating that Level 3 lockdown regulations were unlawful, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu revealed on Thursday afternoon that government had made a decision regarding the ruling.
He said that government had chosen to appeal the court's decision.
"Government will ask that its appeal be heard on an urgent basis so that it can obtain certainty on the regulations. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will be joined in this appeal by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize."Jackson Mthembu, Minister in the Presidency
South Africa has, as at Wednesday 3 June, 37 525 cases of the coronavirus, with 792 reported fatalities.
Mkhize is expected to issue out another update on the stats on Thursday night.