Cheaper cigarettes for poor will cause more deaths, says lobby
November 28, 2017
Tobacco-related deaths will rise if the government does not withdraw a proposal by the National Treasury to make cigarettes cheaper.
Tobacco is the biggest preventable cause of cancer and other non-communicable diseases. It kills at least 31,000 Kenyans every year, according to the World Health Organisation.
A new report by the Ministry of Health and the International Institute for Legislative Affairs, a Nairobi-based legal lobby, suggests the deaths could rise.
Finance Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich lowered taxes on cigarettes from Sh2.50 per stick to Sh1.80 in his budget statement for the 2017-2018 financial year.
The reduction would make cigarettes affordable to poor people.
The new report, “Smoking Out Lies,” shows this will harm the poor.
“Low tobacco taxes and prices should not be viewed as a ‘pro- poor’ policy, this leads to greater tobacco use amongst the poor hence they bear a disproportionate share of the health and economic burden,” Emma Wanyonyi, the CEO of IILA, said.
She said one tobacco company has repositioned one of its brand “plain”.
The report, which was officially released on Thursday last week, was prepared by the ministry’s tobacco control unit, IILA, Makerere University, University of Colorado Denver and the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa.
It was prepared using documents that cigarette makers used during their court battles with the US state governments over the years.
They are now stored at the Truth Tobacco Industry library at the University of California, San Francisco, and Centre for Knowledge Management of the United States.
At least 476 of these documents relate to Kenya and reveal how the firms interfered with lawmaking.