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World Tobacco Day: Lobby group wants pouches, e-cigarettes banned

World No Tobacco Day is marked on May 31 every year.  

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The Kenya Tobacco Control And Health Promotion Alliance (KETCA) is calling on the government to immediately ban nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, vapes and Shisha until a proper legal framework is in place to control their use.

As the World Marks No Tobacco Day Friday, May 31, the lobby group regrets the products are the newest snares that the tobacco industry is using to recruit children and young people to profit off their addiction for life.

The concerns have been raised in the wake of grim statistics revealing increased addiction rates among the youth.

Data from the Tobacco and Drugs Survey of Adolescents in Schools 2022 (TADSAS 2022) (conducted by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse -NACADA) and the Kenya Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, exposes disturbing trends in tobacco use and the strategies employed by the industry to target young Kenyans.

“The industry continues to market nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and vapes to young people with enticing flavours like candy and fruit. The young people use these nicotine products alongside the traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, or as a gateway to the traditional tobacco products” says KETCA.

The NACADA’s TADSAS 2022 survey showed that 3.2 per cent of youths (15-24 years) currently use tobacco products.

“A higher figure (3.4 per cent), said they had ever used e-cigarettes. Once they get addicted, these youths represent a lifetime of profits to the industry, which is aggressively recruiting more” says Joel Gitali, the chairman of KETCA which is the umbrella body for all organisations involved in tobacco control in Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents now exceeds that of adults in many countries.

“This fact is contained in the WHO’s report, “Hooking the next generation”, which is being launched today. “This crisis underscores the urgent need to protect Kenyan children and youth from the aggressive tactics of the tobacco industry,” Gitali observes.

“With approximately 9,000 Kenyans losing their lives each year to tobacco-related illnesses, the theme for this year World No Tobacco Day—Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference and Marketing”—is both timely and crucial,” Mr Gitali said.

e-cigarettes

More than two-thirds (67.8%) of e-cigarette users report using them primarily because of their flavors, while nearly half (49.6%) wrongly believe e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco products, latest survey by Tobacco Control Board reveals.

The study shows that initiation into tobacco use often begins in adolescence, with the minimum age of initiation ranging from six years for traditional tobacco products to 17 years for e-cigarettes and 20 years for nicotine pouches.

Kenya has stringent tobacco control laws under the Tobacco Control Act and the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014.

“However, the full implementation of these laws has never been realised.  Indeed the extent of tobacco industry interference in Kenya is increasing alarmingly. According to the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, Kenya ranks 21st out of 90 countries, in terms of tobacco industry interference in health policies,” said Mr Gitali.

“In light of these concerning trends, KETCA strongly advocates for several policy recommendations. Firstly, there should be a total ban on nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and all vape products in Kenya. We also call for substantial and regular increase in tobacco taxes to ensure that tobacco prices rise above inflation, as Kenyan youth are highly sensitive to price changes,” said Mr Thomas Lindi, the National Coordinator of KETCA.

He further called for a comprehensive ban on the advertising, promotion, sponsorship, online sales, and delivery of all new tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, as well as the use of flavours in these products.

“Larger graphic health warnings on all tobacco and related nicotine products sold in Kenya are necessary to deter youth from initiating use. We call on policymakers, educators, parents, and the broader community to unite in this critical fight to protect our children from the tobacco industry’s aggressive and deceptive tactics” the Alliance insists.

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