Lobbies reject CS Kuria’s plan to weaken tobacco lawsACTA
•Kuria’s plans threatened the United Nations-led programme in western Kenya where former tobacco farmers have been transitioned to high-value crops such as iron-rich beans.
•The statement was also signed by the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance-Kenya, Consumer Information Network, International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA), and the National Taxpayers Association.
Health lobbies have opposed ongoing plans to dismantle Kenya’s tobacco control laws.
Trade CS Moses Kuria revealed the plans last week after meeting the management of cigarette manufacturer BAT-Kenya.
He said the current laws restrict tobacco manufacturers who want to introduce more products such as the highly addictive nicotine pouches.
Five health promotion groups on Monday said the CS was reckless and had no thoughts about the 9,000 Kenyans killed by tobacco use every year.
The lobbies, speaking at a meeting in Nairobi, also said Kuria’s plans threatened the United Nations-led programme in western Kenya where former tobacco farmers have been transitioned to high-value crops such as iron-rich beans.
The organisations met under the umbrella of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA)
“There are two crucial issues that are intrinsically linked to the well-being of the Kenyan population and the nation’s future: the need to halt support for tobacco farming and the urgency of controlling tobacco use due to its severe health implications, particularly its association with cancer, diabetes, and other chronic heart conditions,” they said in a statement read by David Odhiambo, director Den of Hope Youth Group.
The statement was also signed by the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance-Kenya, Consumer Information Network, International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA), Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO), and the National Taxpayers Association.
CS Kuria, on his social media pages on Wednesday, said, “The tobacco industry contributes more than 1 per cent of our GDP, contributing more than Sh18 billion annually, employing thousands of our people and huge earnings to our tobacco farmers mostly in the counties of Busia, Migori and Homa Bay.”
Studies by the World Health Organization show for every shilling tobacco business brings into the economy, Kenya spends three shillings to treat diseases caused by the same.
The diseases include nearly all cancers, heart diseases, diabetes and killer respiratory complications.
Kenya in 2004 ratified the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty, to end tobacco deaths and complications.
Kuria added, “Today the managing director for British American Tobacco, Crispin Ocholla, his team, and myself held extensive discussions on the regulations that govern the industry, the interventions needed and the establishment of a predictive framework.”
IILA CEO Celine Awuor said Kuria’s meeting also contravened the Kenya Tobacco Control Act and the FCTC.
“The Act prohibits government officials from meeting with tobacco industry officials, in order to protect public health. The tobacco industry has a long history of interfering with tobacco control efforts, and these meetings give the industry an opportunity to influence government policy,” Awuor said.
The Kenyan Tobacco Control Act also indicates the government must make an effort to end tobacco farming and use in Kenya.
“Supporting tobacco farming directly contributes to promoting an industry that thrives on addiction and ultimately causes immense suffering and loss of lives,” said Samuel Ochieng, the CEO of Consumer Information Network.
In his Tweets, Kuria also said one cigarette maker was setting up a factory to make the nicotine pouches, “which will be a great boost to our economy. It’s my commitment that we will fast-track all the regulations required to ensure all systems go.”
Christine Sitati, CEO of Kenco, said nicotine pouches are extremely addictive and harm the brains of children and adolescents they are marketed to, and further create lifelong addiction. They also harm foetuses and cause miscarriage.
“The novel tobacco products like oral nicotine pouches, electronic cigarettes and vapes focus on creating a new generation of addicts. These products have shiny, with colourful packages and exotic flavours meant to attract the youth and young generation thus initiating them to unending cycle of addiction,” National Taxpayers Association’s John Thomi added.
“The industry purports that these products are smoke-free, it is however noteworthy that these products are not harmless.”
A 2016 study by the IILA found that tobacco farming is not profitable for most farmers in Kenya. It found that when the cost of labour is included, most tobacco farmers in Kenya are actually operating at a loss.
Many farmers also develop upper respiratory illnesses, pesticide poisoning and green tobacco sickness due to nicotine absorption through the skin when handling wet tobacco leaves.
Last year, the WHO in partnership with World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, initiated a programme to help farmers transition from tobacco to more sustainable crops such as high-iron beans.
At least 1,200 farmers have made the switch.
Source: The Star