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British American Tobacco South Africa (PTY) Limited v. Minister of Health, et al. [South Africa] [August 06, 2012]

British American Tobacco South Africa Limited (BAT) sued the Minister of Health and others claiming that the Tobacco Products Control Act was unconstitutional.  BAT claimed that the Act, which prohibits the advertising or promotion of tobacco products, violated their freedom of expression by denying them the ability to communicate one-to-one with adult consumers and violating the right of consumers to receive information concerning tobacco products.  BAT lost at the trial court and appealed.  To determine if the limitation on speech was justified, the Appeals Court balanced the right of smokers to receive information concerning tobacco products against the government’s obligation to take steps to protect its citizens from the dangers of tobacco.  The Court found that the hazards of smoking far outweigh the interests of the smokers as a group, so the limitation was justified.  Further, the Court stated that South Africa is a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and is obliged to have regard for the requirements of that treaty, specifically Article 13, which requires that Parties ban all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. For these reasons, the lower court’s decision was affirmed. 

BAT appealed to the Constitutional Court.  The Court dismissed the appeal because the company had no prospects of success.

British American Tobacco South Africa (PTY) Ltd. v. Minister of Health, et al. [South Africa] [June 20, 2012]

British American Tobacco South Africa Limited (BAT) sued the Minister of Health and others claiming that the Tobacco Products Control Act was unconstitutional.  BAT claimed that the Act, which prohibits the advertising or promotion of tobacco products, violated their freedom of expression by denying them the ability to communicate one-to-one with adult consumers and violating the right of consumers to receive information concerning tobacco products.  BAT lost at the trial court and appealed.  To determine if the limitation on speech was justified, the Appeals Court balanced the right of smokers to receive information concerning tobacco products against the government’s obligation to take steps to protect its citizens from the dangers of tobacco.  The Court found that the hazards of smoking far outweigh the interests of the smokers as a group, so the limitation was justified.  Further, the Court stated that South Africa is a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and is obliged to have regard for the requirements of that treaty, specifically Article 13, which requires that Parties ban all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. For these reasons, the lower court’s decision was affirmed. 

British American Tobacco South Africa (PYT) LTD v. Minister of Health [South Africa] [May 19, 2011]

The applicant, a tobacco company manufacturer, argued that the tobacco control law's provision prohibiting the advertisement or promotion of tobacco products through any direct or indirect means did not apply to one-to-one communications with consenting adult tobacco users or, in the alternative, is unconstitutional. Emphasizing that one of the purposes of the law is to encourage existing smokers to stop smoking, the High Court held that the law must be interpreted as prohibiting one-to-one communication. The Court also upheld the constitutionality of the law, reasoning that limiting the right to freedom to receive or import information to consenting adult tobacco consumers is reasonable and justifiable.

ASA Ruling on K. Williams & Others v. British American Tobacco [South Africa] [May 16, 2011]

Based on several consumer complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) evaluated a series of billboard, press, and radio ads from British American Tobacco (BAT) South Africa that warned of the dangers of buying illegal cigarettes. For example, one ad showed a woman being hijacked with the words “Danger: people who buy illegal cigarettes possibly help hijackers and robbers.” The ASA found that the ads had violated the country’s Code of Advertising Practice because (1) they were misleading (based on an unproven linkage between illegal cigarettes and violent crime) and (2) they were likely to cause unjustified fear and distress to viewers. The ASA ordered BAT to withdraw the advertising campaign and not to use the ads in the current form again. The ASA dismissed the complaint that the advertising was offensive and said it did not have the authority to rule on the legality of the ads. Instead complaints about illegal tobacco advertising should be made to the agency responsible for enforcing the Tobacco Products Control Act.

Savanna Tobacco Company (PTY) Ltd. v. Minister of Finance, et al. [South Africa] [August 16, 2005]

A cigarette company sought an order from the High Court for the release of cigarettes that were detained after South African officials suspected the cigarettes were being smuggled into the country. The company contended that the cigarettes were manufactured in Zimbabwe and were in transit through South Africa. The High Court dismissed the application and determined the activity was an attempt to smuggle the cigarettes into the country since, among other reasons, the detained cigarettes bore the marks that clearly prove the cigarettes were destined for South Africa.

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