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Court upholds South Africa's cigarette sales ban in lockdown

In this June 2, 2020 photo, a demonstrator exhales smoke during a protest against the tobacco ban outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa.

NARDUS ENGELBRECHT/AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 27, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG — An effort to lift South Africa's ban on cigarette sales during the country's coronavirus lockdown has failed.

The High Court in the capital, Pretoria, on Friday dismissed a bid by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association, which represents smaller manufacturers. The group argued that cigarettes should be considered essential because they are addictive.

Those who want the ban lifted argue that South Africa's government hasn't explained the science it says it relied on when imposing the ban at the end of March. The government has said it is trying to protect people's health.

Some critics also warn that the ban fuels the illegal trade of cigarettes. The ban outlaws selling tobacco but not the act of smoking.

Anger grew when South Africa lifted its lockdown ban on alcohol sales on June 1.

Another legal challenge to the cigarette ban, with global industry giant British American Tobacco taking South Africa's government to court, has begun.

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