The lawsuit is the second such case to be brought against the government.
The company and nine others have told a full bench of the Western Cape High Court that the harm caused by the ban far outweighs the benefits to the public health system.
Counsel for British American Tobacco, Alfred Cockrell said, “the rights to make those decisions include the right to make a decision that may be a wrong one, even if it is harmful to you.”
The applicants also tore into the medical evidence presented by the government to the court, saying at best it is smoke and mirrors.
British American Tobacco SA was in court today in Cape Town to challenge the constitutionality of the tobacco sales ban, in place since the lockdown began in March. Michael Evans, partner and head of public law at Webber Wentzel, is the legal representative for British America Tobacco, South Africa. Courtesy #DStv403
In their view, the medical evidence doesn't prove that a smoker will contract a more severe case of COVID-19.
Cockrell said, “there’s no data but it will give your lungs a fighting chance, and that comes from a non-medical doctor. That metaphor -- a fighting chance is totally unscientific, but that’s the high watermark of the minister’s case."
British American Tobacco further argued the Cooperative Governance minister is relying on the illicit tobacco trade to get people to quit smoking.
The government says prohibition comes at a price and the ban won’t last forever.
The government will continue with its arguments on Thursday.