Court rules against British American Tobacco on cigarette advertising

On June 20, the Supreme Court of Appeal made a decision that the health risks of smoking exceeded the interests of smoking people as a group.

It rejected the British American Tobacco of South Africa’s appeal against an order by the North Gauteng High Court.

Few Cigarettes

A couple of cigarettes

British American Tobacco of South Africa (Batsa) manufacturers and distributes more than 20 cigarette brands in South Africa, and nearly 2000 employees wok there.

The appeal is relative to the proper interpretation of section 3(1) (a) of the Tobacco Products Control Act, as amended by the Tobacco Products Amendment Act, which concerns a ban on the promotion and advertising of tobacco products.

Batsa had seized the high court for a proper interpretation of the act, stating that in accordance with section 16 of the constitution, the claimed ban restricted its right to deal with commercial expression, as also tobacco smokers’ right to freedom of expression.

Then the tobacco company stated that smoking people were refused the right to get information regarding tobacco products.

The company sought a high court order that the provision did not refer to one-to-one communication between consentient adult tobacco smokers and cigarette makers, importers, wholesale distributors and retail dealers.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said that it had to examine whether the act’s restrictions were acceptable and justifiable in an open, democratic society. It also had to examine the rights of smoking people to get information regarding all tobacco products and the government’s duty to defend its citizens from the hazards of tobacco.

The court considered that there were strong public health considerations for a prohibition on advertising and marketing of tobacco products, and that the gravity of the dangers of smoking far exceeded the interests of smoking people as a group.

It as well found that South Africa had international law duties to prohibit tobacco advertising and promotion.

Consequently, the court decided that the ban on advertising and promotion of tobacco products was reasonable and justifiable as constitution requires.

On March 30, the Department of Health issued draft regulations to the Tobacco Products Control Act. If they pass in their existing form, they will tighten restrictions on smoking in all public places, along with covered avenues, work areas, bars, on beaches and in restaurants. Smoking in private homes and cars will be legal.

The proposed amendments as well are deemed to ban smoking at workplaces, as they are considered to be “public places”.

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