Kenya’s Supreme Court Rejects… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Kenya’s Supreme Court Rejects British American Tobacco Suit in Resounding Victory for Public Health

Statement of Bintou Camara Bityeki, Director of Africa Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kenya’s Supreme Court today upheld the country’s 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations, affirming two lower courts’ findings and rejecting legal challenges from British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya. The Supreme Court’s decision is a resounding victory for public health and allows the government to implement a law that will help protect Kenyans from the devastating consequences of tobacco use. As a party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Kenya has international obligations to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use.

Included in Kenya’s Tobacco Control Regulations are requirements for picture-based health warnings and strengthened protections against secondhand smoke. The regulations also require tobacco companies to pay an annual fee into a designated tobacco control fund to assist the government in paying for the health burdens of tobacco use.

Kenya’s Supreme Court ruling is yet another blow for BAT, a company currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom and in Kenya for the alleged bribery of government officials in multiple African countries to influence members of parliament, gain advantages over competitors and undermine tobacco control policies, as documented in a 2015 BBC investigative report.

BAT’s claims in a press release issued this morning that it makes significant economic contributions to Kenya are complete nonsense. The costs of treating the death and disease caused by smoking in Kenya – diseases like heart disease, lung disease and cancer – far outweigh any supposed contribution the company makes. In 2012, the total economic cost of smoking in Kenya was 3 billion KES. Furthermore, a recent report from Tax Justice Network found the company may be underpaying the government of Kenya millions of dollars per year by routing dividend payments via tax haven countries like the Netherlands. BAT’s claims to be concerned about illicit trade are also laughable when companies like BAT have in fact been found to be participating in illicit trade themselves.

Today’s ruling recognizes that BAT’s legal claims were without merit and that tobacco industry interference in laws to improve public health will not be tolerated. The ruling follows a similar decision against BAT by the Constitutional Court of Uganda earlier this year, where BAT tried to challenge strong tobacco control laws in Uganda including smoke-free public places and a ban on tobacco sales to anyone under 21.

We congratulate the government of Kenya for its resolve in standing up to Big Tobacco. Today’s decision sends an unequivocal message that African governments can and should move ahead with efforts to reduce tobacco use even in the face of legal challenges from tobacco companies. Around the world, the largest multinational tobacco companies are increasingly losing legal battles to block and delay tobacco control measures.

Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death. Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives this century.