Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA) calls for the ban lifting of taxes on electronic cigarettes, oral tobacco and nicotine products.
The pan-African non-governmental membership organization dedicated to achieving 100 per cent smoke-free environments in Africa says government taxes on safer alternative nicotine products are condemning 2.8 million Kenyans to smoke toxic tobacco.
“Prohibitive taxes on nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes are putting these safer options out of reach for millions of smokers who are desperate to quit,” CASA Chairman Joseph Magero said in an emailed statement as the world marked World No Tobacco Day on Monday.
“It’s an illogical pro-cigarette policy that puts us out of step with the rest of the world and means Kenya should actually be commemorating Only-Tobacco Day,” he explained.
In a recent webinar, ‘the Africa Tobacco Harm Reduction Forum’ Magero said Kenya’s ongoing ‘quit or die’ tobacco control policy ignored the reality that too many smokers find it impossible to quit, even when they want to.
“Reduced harm products such as e-cigarettes and oral nicotine pouches give them a much safer alternative, a route away from cigarettes and a better chance of a smoke-free future.”
Africa has over 77 million cigarette smokers, with over 250,000 Africans dying each year from smoking-related complications.
In Kenya, an estimated 30,000 people die every year from a smoking-related illness. One in three Kenyan smokers wants to quit, but just seven per cent succeed.
In October 2020, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe declared the registration of nicotine pouches popularly known as LYFT illegal.
Nicotine pouches are marketed as a safer alternative for smoking addicts who want to quit the habit but are addicted.
According to an IPSOS study on the behaviour of oral nicotine users in Kenya, smokers trying to quit smoking welcomed oral nicotine products as ‘an ideal substitute’ for combustible cigarettes.
However, the study reveals that when nicotine pouches were banned, users reverted to cigarette smoking.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO) smokers face a 40 – 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19.
“Smokers have up to a 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, so quitting is best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“We urge all countries to play their part by joining the WHO campaign and creating tobacco-free environments that give people the information, support and tools they need to quit, and quit for good.”