FITA Press Release 20 January 2021

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Press release – FITA – for immediate release

We do not wish to give any legitimacy to Tax Justice South Africa and its so-called investigation, the concocted findings of which must be rejected with contempt. We are further not surprised by the opportunistic and choreographed statements issued thereafter from organizations which appear to be nothing more than lapdogs of Big Tobacco.

In any event we note that the overwhelming majority of the cigarette brands mentioned in the “investigation” do not belong to current FITA members and we therefore suggest that any queries incidental thereto be directed at the correct parties.

It comes as no surprise that this latest attack on FITA and its members comes not too long after a similar attack from another front-group of Big Tobacco which was directed at local cigarette manufacturers, and it clearly forms part of a new canpaign by Big Tobacco to try and maintain a hold on its shrinking market share following the failure of the #TakeBackTheTax campaign which was exposed by the media for the astroturfing campaign that it was.

Until groups like Tax Justice South Africa play open cards and disclose who their funders are, their independence will continue to be questioned. This in particular when their founder, Yusuf Abramjee, has for years aligned himself with multinational cigarette manufacturers, even spearheading the aforementioned discredited campaign on their behalf. The same Abramjee also happens to be a host of the television show which purports to have conducted an independent  investigation into the illicit trade in cigarettes.

We find it extremely concerning that the media is now being used by those with platforms to advance the commercial interests of certain players in the tobacco industry while attacking their competitors.

We will no doubt raise this issue with eNCA, with whom we have always had a good relationship, as this matter will no doubt raises questions about their objectivity and independence in some circles.

The television show was also used as a platform to spread misinformation vis-à-vis certain practices in the tobacco industry, which narrative has been spread by the multinationals, particularly in relation to pricing and the legalities around same, for years. We have for instance over the years seen multinational brands selling below the minimum collectable tax (MCT) yet for some reason Abramjee does not make the same noise about these brands being illegal. This begs the question why?

We again call on the media and the public at large to continue to be objective when consuming information emanating from the tobacco industry and/or any related parties.

Issued by Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson: Sinenhlanhla Mnguni 20 January 2021

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

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