The tobacco industry in South Africa is preparing to take legal action in response to the government’s decision to continue the ban on cigarette sales when lockdown measures are eased on Friday.

Last night the government announced more than 2,000 people signed a petition calling on the government not to lift the ban on tobacco products.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association, which is mounting a legal challenge against the government, said that more than 270,000 South Africans signed a petition opposing the ban on cigarette sales.

The petition started when smokers were given one day’s notice of the ban ahead of the lockdown which began at midnight on 26 March.

They have described this short notice as unfair and spiteful.

The petition also says withdrawing from nicotine can have serious negative side-effects like depression, stress and anxiety.

There’s an argument that lifting the ban would stimulate the economy and generate money for the state through taxation on cigarette sales.

It is estimated that the state is losing on average around $55m (£43m) a month in tax revenue during the ban on selling of tobacco products.

The government rescinded its decision not to lift the ban citing health reasons.

There’s a concern that people’s tendency to share cigarettes would be a heightened risk for spreading coronavirus.

South Africa has more than 5,000 Covid-19 cases and has seen 103 deaths.

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