/ 2 December 2009

Tobacco firm to challenge anti-smoking law

British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) has launched a court challenge to anti-smoking legislation, the National Council Against Smoking said on Wednesday.

It said Batsa had filed an application in the North Gauteng High Court complaining that the law stopped it from communicating with adult smokers.

It was asking the court to interpret the legislation so as to allow one-to-one communications between the tobacco trade and those smokers.

Alternatively, it wanted the ban on one-to-one communication declared unconstitutional as a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

”Such a contorted interpretation would expressly disregard the direct intentions of Parliament,” the council said in a statement.

It said last year Parliament amended the Tobacco Products Control Act to outlaw the ”smoking parties” organised by the industry.

The change came into operation in August this year.

One-to-one communication would mean in practice that the industry would be able to use techniques known as viral or guerrilla marketing to target teenagers.

The section being challenged was specifically designed to protect youth from advertising campaigns designed to get them to start smoking or to smoke more.

The council said the purpose of the ”smoking parties” was not to convey accurate, factual information about tobacco products such as the price, but to make smoking appear a social, cool, fun and exciting experience, and so increase sales.

”Increased cigarette sales mean increased death and disease,” the council said. — Sapa