FITA Press Release 01 June 2021

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Press release – FITA – for immediate release

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (“FITA”) will tomorrow, 2 June 2021, be registering a criminal complaint with the South African Police Service against British American Tobacco South Africa (“BATSA”) in respect of numerous contraventions of inter alia the Tobacco Products Control Act 83 of 1993, and the regulations of the said Act, as well as contraventions of the Customs and Excise Act 91 of 1964 read together with the rules incidental thereto.

On or about 28 May 2021 we received information that BATSA and certain retail stores in and around the greater Johannesburg area were contravening provisions of inter alia the Tobacco Products Control Act and the Customs and the Excise Act by selling loose cigarettes, and giving and/or gifting to the consumer R 5.00 (Five Rand) worth of mobile telephone airtime vouchers together with a small rectangular metallic box which holds up to 3 (three) loose cigarettes, branded with one of the many BATSA brands.

To this end we thereafter conducted test purchases of the abovementioned products available in the market to corroborate the information received, which information has proven to be correct. There further appears to be a concerted effort by BATSA to promote the unlawful sale of loose cigarettes through the use of promotional material.

In this regard we have in our possession photographs and video footage depicting the promotional material and packaging for the sale of loose cigarettes as was found in many retail stores across the Gauteng region.

It is our contention that in selling the said cigarettes and handing over or gifting the airtime and tin box as aforesaid, BATSA and/or the said retailers contravened sections of the Tobacco Products Control Act and the Customs and Excise Act.

Further, section 7(3) of the Tobacco Act states clearly that a person who contravenes or fails to comply with the relevant sections shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, of a fine not exceeding R 1 000 000.00.  We contend that BATSA are guilty of the offences as set out in our complaint.

Further, BATSA advertised or promoted or caused retailers to advertise or promote tobacco products through direct or indirect means.  Further, the said retailers were not allowed to sell loose cigarettes as the sale of a tobacco product is prohibited unless it is packaged in the prescribed manner and in a package.  It is quite clear that the Customs and Excise Act read together with its accompanying rules prohibits the sale of loose cigarettes.

It is further our belief that by making airtime and branded tin boxes available, BATSA and/or its retailers contravened section 4A (2) of the Tobacco Products Control Act by offering gifts to purchasers of their cigarettes.

The said branded box contravenes section 3(1) of the Tobacco Products Control Act in that it advertises or promotes a tobacco product.

We furthermore believe that in affixing health warnings and information as prescribed by the provisions, BATSA endeavoured to create the impression that the branded boxes in fact comply with all the relevant provisions pertaining to the sale of cigarettes. This impression is false.

If one has regard to the facts and the relevant sections of the legislation referred to above, we verily believe that BATSA contravened the Acts as set out in our criminal complaint.

We have further addressed correspondence in this regard to both the South African Revenue Service and the Department of Health respectively as custodians of the aforementioned Acts, as the conduct complained of herein has the potential to affect not only the local tobacco industry, but the enforcement of certain legislation and health provisions as determined by those bodies.

We now call upon the South African Police Service to investigate the contraventions as contained in our complaint, and to ensure, if necessary, and with the assistance of the relevant authorities, that the matter is prosecuted in the interests of justice.

Issued by Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson: Sinenhlanhla Mnguni 01 June 2021

For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za

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