Health advocates in Kenya want the government to take action against cigarette manufacturer BAT-Kenya, against revelations the company has been using questionable payments to prevent the implementation of life-saving tobacco control policies in the country.
According to the head of Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance Mr. Joel Gitali, such allegations are grave especially when Kenya is headed to an election.
He said the revelations come from an analysis conducted by the University of Bath (UK) on whistleblower documents and court records.
A media statement from The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance-KETCA reads “The analysis is published by STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog. It was also reported on Monday on the BBC Panorama program, titled: “Dirty Secrets of the Cigarette Business”. The analysis shows the payments included:”.
KETCA also accused BAT of bribing Kenyan Mps to stifle policies meant to safeguard the health of Kenyans.
“Recently we have seen the tobacco industry in Kenya using some MPs to frustrate life-saving laws. For instance, they reduced excise tax on products containing nicotine from Sh5,000 per kg to Sh1,200 per kg.” The statement reads.
Mr. Gitali wants action against BAT saying Kenya could be in grave danger as elections near.
“As we head into elections we will be extremely watchful because we know they will try to fund some politicians to protect their business from policies that save human lives. This business involves recruiting children and young people and addicting them to cigarettes and nicotine products, and profiting from their addiction until these products kill them. The cycle continues.” He added.
Mr. Gitali further expressed anger that despite the evidence, individuals flouting health policies are never prosecuted.
“For instance, in October 2020 the Health CS confirmed nicotine pouches were illegally registered as medicine by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, contrary to the provisions of Section 25 of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act CAP 224. Until now, nobody has ever been punished. The government must now on the current investigation seriously to save our children and young people.” He stated.
Every year more than 9,000 Kenyans are killed by tobacco smoking-related causes, according to Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.