Someone Tell Philip Morris International that Uganda Says No To Its Smoke Free World! (Part 1)

Someone Tell Philip Morris International that Uganda Says No To Its Smoke Free World! (Part 1)

Philip Morris International Company Is Cause of the Tobacco Problem, Not the Solution!

Philip Morris International is the giant cigarette manufacturer who recently announced the creation of its “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World” to support supposedly “independent” research. This announcement is part of the company’s campaign to portray itself as part of the solution to the global tobacco epidemic, which kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year.

But the facts tell a different story.

Far from being part of the solution, Philip Morris International remains a primary cause of this enormous public health problem and the primary obstacle to greater progress in reducing smoking and other tobacco use around the world.

Here are the facts:

  • Despite its claimed commitment to a smoke-free world, Philip Morris works aggressively to expand the global cigarette market, touting to investors the company’s “robust plans to grow [its] cigarette business.” Philip Morris continues to make most of its revenue from selling cigarettes, the most deadly form of tobacco use and brags about selling the world’s top cigarette brand, Marlboro.
  • Philip Morris spends billions to market cigarettes around the world, often in ways that appeal to kids and often targeting vulnerable low- and middle-income countries.
  • Philip Morris works across the globe to defeat and undermine policies proven to reduce smoking and other tobacco use.

 

Philip Morris Works Aggressively to Expand the Global Cigarette Market

While claiming it wants a smoke-free world, Philip Morris highlights its plans to “grow” its cigarette business, “develop untapped markets” and use cigarette “innovations” to power it’s “strong growth.” So it’s not surprising that Philip Morris continues to make most of its revenue and profit from selling cigarettes and works relentlessly to expand the global cigarette market. On its website, Philip Morris brags that Marlboro is “the number one global cigarette brand.”

Philip Morris International CEO André Calantzopoulos has made clear that his company isn’t getting out the cigarette business anytime soon. In an October 2017 interview, Calantzopoulos told The Wall Street Journal that cigarettes “still represent the bulk of our income.” When asked in the same interview how long before his smoke-free world becomes a reality, he responded, “First, I don’t think it’s 40 years we’re talking about here. It’s much longer.”

At an investor day in September 2016, Calantzopoulos said Philip Morris’ priorities include “to continue leading the combustible product category” and touted “excellent combustible fundamentals,” including improving cigarette industry volume and expansion opportunities.

Also at the September 2016 investor day, Philip Morris’ president for the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region summarized “robust plans to grow cigarette business” and “opportunities to develop untapped markets.” With regard to Marlboro, he described efforts to “continue to strengthen the brand” and “innovations delivering strong growth.” In his presentation, he highlighted plans to grow sales of Marlboro and other cigarette brands in low- and middle-income nations across the globe, from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East to Algeria, Ivory Coast, Morocco and other countries in Africa.

According to Euromonitor International, Philip Morris International has increased its cigarette market share in the Middle East and Africa region more than any of its competitors over the last five years, from about 10 percent to 13 percent by retail volume sales.

Philip Morris has also targeted India and its 1.3 billion people as a major growth opportunity, stating in a 2014 internal company document that “India remains a high potential market with huge upside with cigarette market still in infancy,” according to a July 2017 Reuters report.

These documents and statements leave no doubt that Philip Morris International is working to expand the global market for cigarettes, not shrink it.

 

Philip Morris Aggressively Markets Cigarettes, Often in Ways that Appeal to Kids

 Philip Morris spends billions of dollars each year to market cigarettes worldwide, often in ways that appeal to kids and much of its targeting low- and middle-income countries that can least afford the burden of tobacco-related death and disease.

The company’s youth-oriented marketing efforts in recent years include:

  • A new global campaign found to target youth: In 2011, Philip Morris launched a new global marketing campaign for its best-selling Marlboro cigarettes, called “Be Marlboro,” that used themes and images appealing to youth. With the slogan “Don’t be a Maybe. Be Marlboro,” the campaign’s ads featured young people partying, falling in love, playing music and engaging in risky behaviour. The campaign expanded to more than 60 countries despite being banned by German authorities for targeting youth.
  • Introducing and marketing new flavoured cigarettes that attract kids: Philip Morris has introduced and promoted new flavoured cigarettes in countries across the globe, products which have been banned in the United States precisely because they have been found to attract youth and other new smokers. Research conducted in five Latin American countries found that flavoured cigarettes – including Marlboro and other Philip Morris brands – were observed at over two-thirds of retail locations visited. Examples of Philip Morris brands using menthol and other flavour descriptors include Marlboro Fusion Blast, Marlboro Double Fusion, Chesterfield Fresh Capsule, Marlboro Ice Blast and Marlboro Blue Ice. The introduction of new Marlboro brands that appeal to youth isn’t limited to Latin American. Philip Morris also touts the introduction of brands such as Marlboro Double Ice and Marlboro Touch Slim as “innovations delivering strong growth” in countries such as Turkey and the UAE.
  • Marketing near schools: In its Code of Conduct, Philip Morris International promises not to market tobacco products to minors. However, recent research conducted in multiple countries has documented that advertising and promotions for Marlboro and other Philip Morris brands were prominently visible around primary (elementary) and secondary schools. This research has been conducted in several African countries, Indonesia and other low and middle-income countries.
  • Violating tobacco marketing laws: According to a July 2017 report by Reuters, Philip Morris marketed Marlboro cigarettes by placing colourful ads at kiosks and handing out free cigarettes at parties frequented by young adults, in apparent violation of India’s tobacco control laws.

 

Across the Globe, Philip Morris Fights Policies to Reduce Smoking and Other Tobacco Use

Far from being a part of the solution, Philip Morris is a primary obstacle to greater progress in reducing tobacco use. Philip Morris has waged and continues to wage an unrelenting campaign to defeat and undermine proven policies to reduce tobacco use called for by the global tobacco control treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). These policies include higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, graphic health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships.

An investigative report published by Reuters in July 2017 revealed a massive, secret campaign by Philip Morris to undermine the WHO FCTC, depicting “a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.”

In recent years, Philip Morris has also filed numerous legal challenges, both in national and international courts, to strong measures designed to reduce smoking adopted by Australia, Canada, France, Norway, Panama, Uruguay and the United Kingdom. One of the company’s favourite tactics has been to challenge tobacco control laws as violations of international trade and investment agreements. Examples of the company’s legal challenges include:

  • Philip Morris challenged Australia’s pioneering law requiring plain cigarette packaging both in Australia’s courts and in an international tribunal as a violation of a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. The company lost both cases. According to media reports, Philip Morris has also helped finance an ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge that several countries filed against Australia’s plain packaging law (Australia has reportedly won the case, but the WTO has not officially released its ruling).
  • Philip Morris challenged Uruguay’s strong cigarette warning and labelling laws as violations of a bilateral investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland. In a landmark ruling, an arbitration panel of the World Bank ruled for Uruguay and ordered Philip Morris to pay Uruguay’s legal costs.
  • In Thailand, Philip Morris’ ongoing legal challenge has temporarily stopped the Ministry of Health from increasing the size of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs.
  • In Colombia, a Philip Morris subsidiary is suing a local government for protecting kids and vulnerable populations by banning sales of cigarette and other tobacco products around schools and health facilities, among other sales restrictions.

Philip Morris’ claimed commitment to a “smoke-free world” cannot be taken seriously so long as it continues to aggressively market cigarettes, introduce innovative new cigarette brands that attract kid and increase users, and to fight proven policies to reduce smoking and save lives around the world. Until Philip Morris ceases these harmful activities, its claims should be seen as yet another public relations stunt aimed at repairing the company’s image and not a serious effort to reduce the death and disease caused by its products.

Shameful Foundation for a Smoke free World Announced by Philip Morris International

Shameful Foundation for a Smoke free World Announced by Philip Morris International

Philip Morris International – the world’s largest non-governmental cigarette manufacturer – announced that it is establishing a Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, with funding of $80 million per year over the next 12 years.

It should be known that Philip Morris has a long history of deceiving the world and doing whatever it takes to sell cigarettes. This is not the first time Philip Morris has announced that it is funding “independent” research, nor is it the first time it has claimed to support “independent” researchers. Each of its past efforts has been nothing more than a smokescreen to divert attention from its marketing practices, the harm its products cause and the strong scientific consensus that already existed – both about the harm of its products and the scientifically proven ways to reduce tobacco use.  There is no reason to believe that this announcement is any different.

Today, we know how to reduce tobacco use. The scientific evidence is strong and conclusive.  The problem is that companies like Philip Morris continue to oppose the adoption of these policies and programs.

Philip Morris’ claimed commitment to a “smoke-free world” cannot be taken seriously as long as it still continues to aggressively market cigarettes and fights proven policies to reduce smoking while saving lives around the world. Until Philip Morris ceases these harmful activities, its claims should be seen as yet another public relations stunt aimed at repairing the company’s image and not a serious effort to reduce the death and disease caused by its products. The amount Philip Morris is spending on its new foundation is a drop in the bucket compared to the $75 billion in revenues and over $17 billion in profits the company reported in 2016, most of it from selling cigarettes.

If Philip Morris is truly committed to a smoke-free future, it should actively support the policies to reduce cigarette smoking that is endorsed by the public health community and an international public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and set an example for the tobacco industry by stopping all marketing of cigarettes.

Philip Morris International’s actions show it remains a major cause of the tobacco epidemic, not a part of the solution.

There is a global consensus about how to reduce tobacco use. The problem is not a lack of evidence requiring research, it is the fact that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies continue to fight strong policies proven to reduce tobacco use around the world. Philip Morris continues to lobby against effective measures called for by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, such as higher tobacco taxes, graphic health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

An investigative report published by Reuters in July revealed a massive, secret campaign by Philip Morris to undermine the FCTC, depicting “a company that has focused it is vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.” In recent years, Philip Morris has also filed numerous legal challenges to strong tobacco control laws adopted by Australia, Uruguay and other countries. It is the height of hypocrisy for Philip Morris to proclaim publicly that it is helping to solve the tobacco problem while it wages all-out campaigns against efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

This isn’t the first time Philip Morris has stated a commitment to funding research with the goal of reducing the death and disease caused by cigarettes, but every prior announcement was nothing more than a smokescreen to enable it to continue business as usual. In 1954, a Philip Morris vice president stated, “[I]f we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to our customers, we would stop business tomorrow.” In 1997, Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible said in a deposition that the company would halt production if presented with evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, stating he would “shut it down instantly.” Yet today, cigarettes make up almost all of Philip Morris International’s business and profits. Philip Morris continues to aggressively market cigarettes around the world, often in ways that appeal to kids and much of its targeting low- and middle-income countries that can least afford the burden of tobacco-related death and disease. In a recent example, Philip Morris launched a global marketing campaign for its best-selling Marlboro cigarettes, called “Be Marlboro,” that uses themes and images that appeal to youth. The campaign, which has been rolled out in over 60 countries, features young people partying, falling in love, playing music and engaging in risky behaviour. In many countries, Philip Morris and its subsidiaries have introduced flavoured cigarettes that appeal to youth, conducted aggressive marketing near elementary schools, sponsored race cars and concerts, and engaged in other youth-oriented marketing.

Cigarette smoking kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill 1 billion people this century. To end this terrible epidemic, we need strong action by governments to reduce tobacco use, not empty promises from tobacco companies.

 

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

KCCA and Uganda Police Inspect Businesses in Kampala for compliance to The Tobacco Control Law

KCCA and Uganda Police Inspect Businesses in Kampala for compliance to The Tobacco Control Law

Tobacco Control advocate agency Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO) conducted spot on health inspections, audits and sensitization exercises of businesses and business areas in the Kampala divisions of Nakawa, Rubaga, Kawempe, Makindye and Central area to support enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act for compliance.

The Tobacco Control Act (2015) is a public health act that amply empowers all citizens of Uganda to enforce its declaration, including the total ban on shisha and the 50-metre rule. It has been completely enforceable since May 2017.

The Tobacco Control Act (2015) Section 16 places a TOTAL BAN on the importation, sell, offer for sale, or distribute of; Shisha (which is a flavoured water-pipe tobacco product) and/or shisha pots (which is a water-pipe delivery system). The penalty is a severe fine of not less than 20,000,000 UGX.

UNHCO worked with a team of government and civil society agencies including, Ministry of Health, Uganda Police Force (i.e.; CPS/Anti-Narcotics Department), Kampala City Council Authority, Ministry of Local Government, National Environment Management Authority and Uganda National Bureau of Standards.

During the inspection in the communities, traders were eager to listen closely to health and police inspectors, as they shared the details of the Tobacco Control Act.

And a way to ensure enforcement, there was a trader who was found illegally selling banned shisha products, who attempted to argue with the health and police inspectors claiming that he had legal paperwork permitting him to sell the illegal products.  On delivery of the papers, the agents from URA during the inspections proved that the forms provided were in contempt of the law. All business owners should know that SHISHA IS A BANNED TOBACCO PRODUCT.

It should be known by all business owners that SHISHA IS A BANNED TOBACCO PRODUCT in Uganda.

‘We are scared we will die soon’, Tobacco Workers.

‘We are scared we will die soon’, Tobacco Workers.

Folarin Jakanola died from a sickness he developed from the working environment he was exposed to while working with British-American Tobacco, Nigeria. “We were exposed to the same environment and we are going through serious health problems. We are scared we will die soon.”

“We were exposed to the same environment and we are going through serious health problems. We are scared we will die soon.”

Listen in to the below podcast for more information.

CTFK Statement: U.S. Authorities Urged to Investigate British American Tobacco for Allegations of Widespread Bribery and Corruption in Africa

CTFK Statement: U.S. Authorities Urged to Investigate British American Tobacco for Allegations of Widespread Bribery and Corruption in Africa

Following new allegations about the conduct of British American Tobacco (BAT) in Africa –published today by The Guardian – the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) urged the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate BAT and its subsidiaries for possible violations of the anti-bribery and accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Tobacco-Free Kids requested the investigation in a letter to the two government agencies.

British American Tobacco has faced mounting allegations that the company engaged in widespread bribery and corruption in Africa to gain an advantage over competitors and stifle government efforts to curb smoking.

Earlier this month, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) formally launched an investigation of BAT on suspicions of corruption. An investigative report published today by The Guardian revealed new allegations that, for years, BAT secretly and possibly illegally moved millions of U.S. dollars in cash across international borders into the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) allegedly to support the company’s tobacco leaf operations in that country.

The new allegations indicate BAT’s operations included engaging with armed rebels involved in the long-standing DRC conflict in order to make secret cash drops used to pay for tobacco leaf from farmers in Auzi, an unmapped town BAT built in the 1950’s, according to The Guardian.

In addition to possible violations of the FCPA, The Guardian report raises questions about whether BAT’s conduct in moving U.S. dollars during the DRC conflict also violates federal anti-money laundering laws, especially as the U.S. has had sanctions in place against the DRC since 2006. The story also exposes BAT’s role in flooding South Sudan with its cheapest cigarette brands following years of war and operating around terrorist networks in Somalia to continue selling cigarettes in the country.

The growing allegations about BAT’s conduct are particularly alarming following the July 2017 merger of BAT and Reynolds American in the United States. The recent merger places BAT in a leading position in the U.S. market and, according to BAT, created the largest tobacco company in the world by operating profits.

“Given British American Tobacco’s decades-long history of calculated deception in the United States and abroad and its re-entry into the U.S. market, the mounting allegations of corruption and mass concealment of funds by BAT must be fully investigated by U.S. regulators for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and any other applicable criminal or civil laws,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This is a company that has proven it cannot and will not play by the rules. Unless and until they are held accountable by governments, shareholders, business partners and the public, the company’s wrongdoing will only continue.”

Alleged corruption within BAT was first publicly exposed in November 2015 when the BBC, and later other news outlets, revealed allegations that the company was engaging in bribery and other corrupt acts that included bribing Ministry of Health officials in Burundi, Comoros and Rwanda, a former Kenyan Minister of Justice and a Member of Parliament from Uganda.

Tobacco use kills more than seven million people worldwide each year. Without urgent action by governments to pass proven tobacco control laws and curb the power and influence of tobacco companies, tobacco use will kill one billion people this century.

Tobacco Control Regional Media Training

Tobacco Control Regional Media Training

The Uganda Health Communication Alliance (UHCA) is a professional organisation that brings together journalists and other communication professionals from non-government organisations, government and academia.

UHCA is also a Tobacco Control Advocate organisation that uses its influence with the media to promote, inform and guide journalists on how to broadcast and report about the Tobacco Control activities in Uganda.

This week, UHCA is travelling the country talking to media practitioners about the need to report about the implement the Tobacco Control Law.  Below in images are the session;

The above images are during the media training in Western Uganda on the Tobacco Control Act, dangers of tobacco use, Tobacco Industry tactics and emphasizing compliance.  In this region UHCA covered districts of Fortportal, Kibito, Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa and Kasese.

The picture below also from South western Uganda in the districts of Bushenyi, Ntungamo, and Mbarara, also  had the same focus as the one above.

We will be sharing more about these regional Tobacco Control media training in our next update.

Tobacco Activists back prosecution of cigarette dealers

Tobacco Activists back prosecution of cigarette dealers

Activities have tasked government to prosecute cigarette dealers, who do not comply with the tobacco law.

The law came into force last week, after the Constitutional Court blocked a move by the British American Tobacco (BAT) to temporarily halt government’s implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2015.

Speaking to journalists during a press conference in Kampala, Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi, the national tobacco control focal person in the health ministry also warned the Police against soliciting bribes from cigarette dealers, saying they also risk prosecution.

“If Police connives with those people and refuse to arraign them in court, they will also face prosecution because they would be derailing the law,” she said.

She said Government spends over sh1.8b in treating tobacco- related diseases every year.

“The cost of treating a patient with tobacco-related cancer is at a minimum of sh6m, as the cost of chemotherapy for six cycles which can escalate in the event that it recurs even to the second consumer,” Ndyanabangi said.

Source: New Vision Uganda.

Tobacco Control Activists to Sue UFZA Head Over Contravention of the Law

Tobacco Control Activists to Sue UFZA Head Over Contravention of the Law

Tobacco control activists led by the head of mental health division in the ministry of health and the focus spokes person of Tobacco Control Uganda, Dr.  Sheila Ndyanabangi have committed to drag the executive director of Uganda Free Zones Authority (UFZA) Richard Jabo to court, in case he fails to revoke the agreement giving out land measuring two hectares of land to Nilus Limited in Jinja district to enable it set up a 11 millon US dollar tobacco industry.

Dr. Ndyanabangi said that the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), the Tobacco advocates legal arm is to first write a legal opinion to the Executive Director of  UFZA Richard Jabo, interesting him on how he awarded the land illegal since his action contravenes the Tobacco Control Act 2015 which prohibits any public servant from conniving with people in the tobacco industry or giving or receiving any incentive from the tobacco industry.

“Uganda free zone authority’ agreement with that tobacco company is null and void whether they did it knowingly or ignorantly. We shall first write a legal opinion to them, instructing them to withdraw the contract in addition to publishing it in press and once they fail to comply then we shall have no option other than prosecuting the Executive director individually since the law criminalize the organisation head not the organisation ” Said Ndyanabangi.

It should be noted that UFZA has been added to Ministry of trade, industries and cooperatives which also contravened the same act by declaring 2017 a tobacco growing year.

Tobacco control advocates emphasis that in case the two fail to abide by their legal opinions, they will be no other option other than prosecuting them.

The Tobacco control act 2015 was assented to by president Yoweri Kagutta Museveni on the 19th of  August 2015 and came into force on the 19 may of 2016 but it was given a grace period of one year to be fully implemented, which ended on 18th May 2017.

The act banned favored tobacco like Shisha, kuber and electronic cigarette, bans smoking in public places, advertising of tobacco products, refrains any public official from dealing in whatever way with the tobacco industry and once found guilty is liable to a fine of not less than one million shillings,  imprisonment not less than a year or serve both punishments.

The warning comes at a time when over 180 countries globally have adopted a similar law and when preparations for Uganda to join the rest of the world in commemoration of the world no tobacco day due every 31 of May are in high gear with this year’s theme being Tobacco affecting development.

Uganda Police Confiscates Tobacco Banned Products and Arrests Users

Uganda Police Confiscates Tobacco Banned Products and Arrests Users

After undergoing Tobacco Control Law Implementation training, Uganda Police has been carrying out raids in public places where banned products like Shisha are being sold and used.

Tobacco Control Law training for Uganda Police.

On Friday evening from 7pm to 1am Uganda Police Force took out an operation against ignore tobacco product in the Kampala Center region.

Place like Arua park had 7 people arrested and a number of shisha pots confiscated, while Shade Bar and Restaurant had all it’s shisha users arrested. Laftaz Comedy Lounge in Centenary Park had its 41 shisha pots impounded, and Kyoto Turkish Restaurant & Bar also in Centenary Park had 34 pots and delivery systems confiscated by the police.

Zone7 in Bugolobi was the only one found with no banned products like shisha but Mugiez Corporate Zone Reloaded or Mugiez Corporate ZONE, shisha pots and their delivery systems were hidden and out of use. The manager of the bar said that they had stopped selling shisha and kept the pots after they had about the arrests. He lead the Police DPC heading the operation to the story where they were hidden. There were 7 pots and their delivery systems, which the police confiscated.

This was the third raid by police implementing the Tobacco Control Law. The first one was in Mukono town, second on Acacia Avenue.

The DPC commented and said that some entertainment places in Kampala central were no longer dealing in shisha, and this is a great thing because people are promoting and implementing the Tobacco Control Law.

What does the recent ruling on tobacco control regulations mean for the fight against NCDs in Kenya?

What does the recent ruling on tobacco control regulations mean for the fight against NCDs in Kenya?

Kenya is currently celebrating 10 years since the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act 2007, developed following Kenya’s ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 (link is external). Although the Act has been operational since 2007, full realisation of the gains intended has been elusive due to delays in implementing its associated regulations. The Tobacco Control Regulations 2007 are meant to be subsidiary laws intended to put into effect specific provisions of the Tobacco Control Act 2007 – but the tobacco industry have consistently fought legislation, realising that the regulations would ultimately impact on sales of their health harming products.

Tobacco in Kenya – what’s the problem?

Tobacco is the most preventable cause of death globally and has been singled out as one of the major risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases (link is external) (NCDs). Owing to this, a global NCDs agenda of reducing up to 30% of prevalence of tobacco use from people 15+ years by 2030 was set within the Sustainable Development Goals (link is external). According to Kenya STEPwise, a survey conducted in 2015 to collect information on the risk factors for NCDs, it is estimated that up to thirteen percent (13%) of Kenyans currently use some form of tobacco products (link is external). About ten percent (10.1%) of this population uses smoked tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipes and shisha, while the remaining three percent (3%) use smokeless tobacco.

Furthermore, it is estimated that nearly twenty-one percent (20.9%) of Kenyans are exposed to second hand smoke at home and work. These are indeed alarming statistics given the disturbing burden of NCDs in Kenya. On Thursday January 5, 2017, The Acting Director of World Health Organization’s (WHO) NCD cluster, and WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti decried the increasing burden of NCDs in Africa stating that heavy reliance on tobacco use was among the major causes of the rising NCDs and related deaths in the continent (link is external).

Kenyan Tobacco Control Regulations: a major boost in the fight against NCDs

The Tobacco Control Regulations 2014, give a greenlight to regulation of packaging and labelling of tobacco products manufactured locally or imported. Tobacco companies in Kenya are mandated by the regulations to print pictorial health warnings (PHWs) on both sides of their cigarette packs. Having explicit graphical/ pictorial health warnings depicting health effects of tobacco use have been lauded (link is external) as an effective way of encouraging tobacco smokers to quit smoking and discouraging others from starting the habit.

Involuntary exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is also a major concern to the fight against NCDs. With nearly twenty one percent of Kenyans involuntarily exposed to second hand tobacco smoke, there has been a sharp rise of NCDs among children, people living with disability and those living with AIDS. Effective implementation and enforcement of the Tobacco Control Regulations will protect the general public against exposure to second hand tobacco smoke in public places, and distinct private places where children and other vulnerable people could be exposed to tobacco smoke.

NCDs must be taken seriously and resourced sufficiently to maintain momentum

Incapacitation in the fight against NCDs in Kenya and in Africa has largely been attributed to low prioritisation of NCDs within the national agenda. This has in turn affected how resources are being allocated to NCD programs in Kenya, as well as the rest of the continent.

The Tobacco Control Regulations 2014, shine some rays of hope. In a quest to curb the rising negative health effects of tobacco use, these regulations have strongly highlighted provisions for the tobacco companies to justifiably take on the responsibility of dealing with these effects and costs to society. The regulations outline strong provisions for the tobacco companies to mandatorily contribute annually to the Tobacco Control Fund (TCF), through which the Ministry of Health is able to set up structures to support cessation programs, as well as conducting research especially on chronic conditions resulting from heavy reliance on tobacco use.

The tobacco industry – implicated in disease and death, but still fighting for their own survival

The tobacco industry sees the regulations as a threat to their business and income streams, which have increasingly focused on growing markets in Africa. Since before the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act of 2007, the industry has fought legislation in court, a test of our government’s financial resources, commitment to health, and resilience.

On Friday February 17, 2017 a major ruling was made by the Kenya’s Court of Appeal upholding the Tobacco Control Regulations 2007 and disqualifying an appeal case lodged by British American Tobacco (BAT) and Mastermind Tobacco Kenya Limited. Earlier BAT had prevented the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 from coming into effect in June 2015 through a legal process at the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the regulations. In March 2016, the High Court made a judgement in favour of the regulations which BAT opted to appeal, faulting the judgement by the High Court. They just would not sit back and accept the rule of court, and health advocates again ramped up in efforts to resist the appeal and ensure that the right to health was protected.

The fight against tobacco and NCDs can’t stop with this latest ruling – there’s much to be done

For all these gains to be enjoyed, there needs to be

  1. Political goodwill to fully implement general tobacco control policies in Kenya;
  2. Unwavering commitment by people charged with the responsibilities of overseeing compliance and enforcing the regulations; and
  3. Consistent monitoring and reporting structures on the achievements made in the implementation and enforcement of the regulations.

We hope that BAT’s appeal was the industry’s final assault on regulations designed to align with the FCTC, and in doing so protect the health of Kenyans today and into the future. We recognise the determination of the tobacco industry to disrupt and interfere using any means to protect their business. We stand vigilant to hold them at bay, and support the government and health sector in efforts to prevent tobacco related harm in Kenya. We also hope that our story inspires other governments and health advocates taking on the tobacco industry in court – it can be done, indeed – it must.

 

About the Author

Achieng Otieno (@sachieng (link is external)) is Communication and Digital Advocate for Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) (link is external) (@KETCA1 (link is external)). KETCA is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together civil society organisations advocating for tobacco control in Kenya. KETCA is a member of the NCD Alliance in Kenya (NCDAK).(link is external) The victory over BAT and Mastermind Tobacco were a result of collaborative effort from various stakeholders within the country and beyond, and for that KETCA expresses appreciation to supporters.