Kenya: Uphold Increased Nicotine Taxes, Health Experts Tell MPs

Kenya: Uphold Increased Nicotine Taxes, Health Experts Tell MPs

KIAMBU, Kenya, Apr 12 – Health experts and civil society advocates have pleaded with Members of the National Assembly to retain or even increase the proposed tax on liquid nicotine.

Last week Thursday, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani proposed to change the taxation regime for liquid nicotine from the current shillings per unit to an excise duty of Sh70 per milliliter making it less accessible to users including school children and the youth

“The introduction of new products beyond e-cigarettes continue to negatively affect the health of citizens and their taxation regime has made them easily accessible to users including school children and youth thus leading to nicotine addiction,” Yatani had said during the budget reading.

In a press release Tuesday, National Chairman of the Tobacco Control and Health Promotion Alliance, Joel Gitali said the tobacco industry players might try to lobby MPs to reduce the tax.

“We see a barrier ahead. We ask Parliament not to do what they did last time (2021) by lowering proposed taxes. Parliament should even increase the amount and come up with more stringent measures. It should not try to please the tobacco industry. If it wants to make any changes, it must consult the Ministry of Health,” Gitali said.

The proposal by the Treasury CS will be included in the Finance Bill, 2022, which will be debated by Members of the National Assembly and will have to be signed into law by the President before July 1, 2022.

Gitali praised the National Treasury CS saying the government appears to have listened to health advocates to stop the growing threat of nicotine addiction in children and youths.

“Yatani spoke exactly the language we speak, giving the impression he’s listening to us. These dangerous nicotine products are accessible to minors which means the rate at which young people are recruited into drugs abuse is high,” he said.

Gitali noted that the budget will reduce the harmful consumption of the products and the taxation assist young people since it is the only way that reduce the demand for nicotine.

National Coordinator of the Tobacco Control and Health Promotion Alliance, Thomas Lindi, said the increase in liquid nicotine tax was a result of intense lobbying by civil society.

“We still urge for more tax on these products. All consumers should be helped so that they quit. For this we want direct health assistance to help people addicted to these products,” he said, noting the need for more resources for public health education through the operationalising the Tobacco Control Fund,

The International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA) however said that they had hoped for an increase in taxes on conventional cigarettes as well.

“About 2.5 million Kenyans smoke cigarettes and every year, about 9,000 are killed by diseases such as cancer and stroke, caused by cigarette smoking,” IILA CEO Celine Awuor said.

Awuor said that as a nonprofit that works closely with Policy making institutions and government, they are appealing to MPS to also raise taxes on conventional cigarettes to take care of inflation

“This tax is a good indication the government is seeing the need to reduce consumption of nicotine products because of the growing addiction among youths and children. We empathize that these innovative products in the tobacco market target young people and children. We need all measures to reduce consumption and prevent initiation. This process should become progressive,” she said

However, Awuor went ahead and faulted the 15 per cent tax on advertisements on alcohol and betting saying it is good for raising revenue for the government but if the justification for tax is to reduce consumption and addition to gambling g and alcohol, a better move would be to completely ban the advertisements or increase tax on products so that the cost directly discourages users.

“Betting companies will just increase advertising expenditure, the companies will absorb the extra cost and will still put out the ads and the public will see them,” the IILA CEO added.

Consumer Information Network, CEO Samuel Ochieng said Kenya now joins the more than 68 countries using taxes to combat nicotine addiction.

“The CS proposed tax on liquid nicotine is a very welcome move and we’re very excited about it. Other countries also use these taxes to control consumption,” he added.

“Although this is a proposal and will go to Parliament, we want to urge the MPS not to shoot it down because of its good intention,” said, Ochieng adding that they are developing a strategy to ensure they get more taxes imposed on cigarettes.

Apart from the traditional cigarettes, the other highly addictive nicotine delivery products being sold in Kenya include pouches (such as Velo and Lyft), electronic cigarettes, vaping devices, vaporizers, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes and e-pipes.

According to the WHO’s Global Nicotine Reduction Strategy, nicotine addiction induces permanent changes to the brain during adolescence. This also leaves teens with an increased risk of addiction to substances such as cannabis, heroin and cocaine.

Nicotine addiction is one of the fastest-growing forms of addiction in Kenya and one way of controlling it is through improved tax administration and stricter enforcement.

Kenya is a signatory to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s only health treaty, which calls for regular tax increases to fight tobacco and related products.

Source: Capital Fm