The Issue

In November 2017, Philip Morris International, through a Kenya – based public relations company, organised a media workshop, themed “Tobacco Harm Reduction: Towards a Smoke Free World” in Naivasha, with the aim of driving media and public opinion towards embracing PMI’s Foundation for a Smoke-Free World agenda on harm reduction. The two-day media workshop targeted senior journalists from Southern, West and East African countries including Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The workshop resolved to form a network of African reporters to champion efforts of reducing tobacco harm.

In response to this event, national and regional tobacco control CSOs published a half page press statement calling out PMI and denouncing the deceptive actions and activities of the industry aimed at interfering with tobacco control efforts in the country.

Outcome

The so-called “harm reduction” products such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches are becoming increasingly popular with youth in Kenya, especially due to the power of social media advertising. More often than not, they serve as a gateway to cigarette/ tobacco use and not as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.

The Issue

The tobacco industry in Kenya has been encouraging people to switch from use of cigarettes to other tobacco alternatives. According to British American Tobacco Kenya (BATK) Managing Director, Beverly Spencer, only smoking and the burning of tobacco is what creates the risks associated with cigarettes and that is why British American Tobacco (BAT) decided to introduce nicotine pouches. Many people use alternative tobacco products because they think these are safer than cigarettes or that these products will help them quit smoking. However, there is no significant evidence that has been presented to show that these products are less harmful. Civil society organisations continue to advocate for the regulation of these products, highlighting the fact that they carry significant health risks and are not safe alternatives to smoking cigarettes. The dangers are just as great as smoking.

Outcome

The tobacco industry continues to innovate to rebrand its public image and maintain its bottom line. By expanding its product portfolio, the industry is aggressively growing its market base especially among youth.

The Issue

In 1998, Kenya’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with other stakeholders i.e. Kenya Medical Association (KMA) and the Kenya Cardiac Society (KCS) drafted a tobacco control Bill and presented it to the National Assembly. In response, BATK drafted and through a private member presented an alternate Bill intended to delay the process of enactment of the TC Bill. This tactic was able to delay the processing on the TC Bill through parliamentary bureaucracy for 9 years.

In 2004, the Ministry of Health through the Tobacco Free Initiative Committee (TFIC) that had been established to provide a coordinated approach to TC in Kenya introduced a new Bill in Parliament. BATK and Mastermind Tobacco Kenya (MTK) put their differences aside and through a PR company, Gina Din Corporate Communications, organised a weekend-long retreat in the exclusive Chale Island, located at the coast of Kenya, for 40 Members of Parliament (MPs) to lobby against the Bill. This trip resulted in proposed amendments to the Bill, including its renaming from ‘Tobacco Control Bill’ to ‘Tobacco Products Regulation Bill’ and representation of the industry in the tobacco control committee proposed in the Bill, which would have weakened its scope and objectives.

Outcome

Following a media exposé by CSOs, the Tobacco Industry plans were thwarted and their proposals did not see light of day and a comprehensive Tobacco Control Act was enacted in 2007, nine years after it was first introduced in the Kenya National Assembly.

The Issue

In a number of occasions, BATK has partnered with County Governments and learning institutions during commemoration of World Environment Day through providing support and sponsoring the events. These events were undertaken in collaboration with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for tree planting and energy-saving initiatives. BAT prides itself as an organisation operating a sustainable and environmentally friendly business claiming to have planted over 50 million trees with the farmers and community stakeholders they engage with since their afforestation program began in 1978. The motto being a tree for every Kenyan.

Additionally, in April 2020 at the height of COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya, BATK partnered with Kenya Pipeline Company to produce 300,000 liters of sanitiser that was donated to government to support efforts to control spread of the virus. Migori County, a leading tobacco growing region in Kenya received donations in form of water tanks and hand washing detergents; which were acknowledged by the County Governor as he thanked BATK for the support . CSOs responded through various channels; including an open letter to the President highlighting the tobacco industry interference and influence in Kenya during the pandemic. A policy brief was also developed and disseminated through media and digital platforms.

Outcome

Adapted from “CROOKED NINE – Nine ways the tobacco industry undermines health policy” by Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) – September 2019.