Kenyan Parliament Passes Strong Anti-Tobacco Legislation

Tobacco Control Advocates Urge President to Quickly Sign It Into Law

Aug. 10 2007

Washington, DC — Providing important leadership in Africa for reducing tobacco use and its deadly consequences, the Kenyan Parliament has passed the national Tobacco Control Act, which bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, increases cigarette taxes and takes other strong steps to reduce tobacco use. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joined Kenyan health advocates in congratulating Parliament and urged President Mwai Kibaki to quickly sign the live-saving measure into law.

"Tobacco will kill one billion people worldwide this century if current trends continue, so Kenya can provide important leadership in Africa and globally by enacting these strong, science-based measures to reduce tobacco use," said Damon Moglen, Vice President of International Programs for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "President Kibaki can help save the lives of thousands of Kenyans and demonstrate important leadership by signing the Tobacco Control Act into law."

"With today's decision, the Kenyan Parliament has sent a clear signal that tobacco must no longer continue as a killer of thousands of Kenyans each year," said Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, a leading international tobacco control advocate and champion of the legislation. "Parliament has also demonstrated its independence from the tobacco industry, putting public health firmly above private profit."

The new legislation is an important step forward towards meeting international standards. It substantially strengthens existing regulations by:

  • Enacting comprehensive bans on tobacco industry advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
  • Explicitly prohibiting sales of cigarettes to minors and taking other measures to make it more difficult for people under 18 to buy cigarettes, such as banning single-stick and vending-machine sales;
  • Requiring the Kenyan Ministry of Finance to regularly increase taxes on cigarettes to help boost the sales price; most brands can be purchased for under $1 per 12-stick pack;
  • Creating a national Tobacco Control Board with strong powers to implement and enforce the new legislation. Importantly, the board excludes tobacco-industry participation and will be made up of 15 members from government and civil-society organizations;
  • Substantially enlarging the size and variety of health-warning labels on cigarette packs, including the possible use of pictorials, to cover 30 percent of the front of the cigarette pack and 50 percent of the back;
  • Calling on the government to help find alternative livelihoods for Kenya's 22,000 tobacco farmers who raise the crop on 5 percent of the nation's arable land.

The Parliament-passed bill also expands protection against secondhand smoke by banning smoking in most public places and workplaces. Hopefully, a future Parliament will ban smoking in all public places and eliminate designated smoking areas in order to comply with recently adopted international standards.

"This legislation represents a remarkable accomplishment that will save lives despite some shortcomings in protecting people against the harm from secondhand smoke. It will also bring Kenya substantially into compliance with the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the public-health treaty ratified by Kenya in 2004," said Rachel Kitonyo, the Executive Director of the Institute for Legislative Affairs. "We hope the President will sign the bill into law as soon as possible and start implementing it. It's important for him to know the whole world is watching."

Kitonyo said the Ministry of Health and public health advocates had to overcome strong industry opposition to get the bill to this stage. British American Tobacco, which controls an estimated 85 percent of Kenya's market, failed in most of its attempts to weaken the legislation, she said.

Kenya is an East African nation with 34 million people. More than one-quarter of the population smokes, including 13 percent of school-age children. An estimated 12,000 Kenyans die prematurely each year from diseases related to tobacco use and exposure.

For more information:

Dr. A.E.O. Ogwell, Kenya
+254-722-788085, ogwell@swiftkenya.com

Rachel Kitonyo, Kenya
+254-729 871497, rakitonyo@yahoo.com

Brian Bonner, Washington, DC
+1-202-481-9380, bbonner@tobaccofreekids.org

 

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