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BAT, other Tobacco products manufacturers use deceptive marketing, bribery to woo more Kenyans into harmful habit

Tobacco Products manufacturers

The government lost the fight to control the sales of tobacco products unrestricted to Kenyans, due to corruption and bribe-taking by officials.

However, some anti-tobacco lobby groups have put up the fight and have succeeded, in some instances.

By 2019, the British American Tobacco (BAT) had been challenging the Tobacco Control Act, 2007 unsuccessfully for some time. BAT had in March 2017 filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Kenya against the Court of Appeal’s judgment upholding the legality of the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014.

The Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 puts a stop to the unrestricted sale of cigarettes and other harmful tobacco products. BAT had protested the printing of the harm that Tobacco causes on cigarette packets.

The Act also covers restrictions on public smoking; tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

On the 26th November 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Kenyans. The law stays.

Other topics addressed by the law include public education and information campaigns; sales to minors; and enforcement of the law. The Tobacco Control Act, 2007 grants powers, including implementation and enforcement authority, to individuals appointed under the Public Health Act. The Traffic Act defines “public service vehicle,” incorporated by the Tobacco Control Act with regards to smoke-free provisions.

The Tobacco Control Regulations, 2014 require combined picture and text health warnings and further regulate other provisions under the Tobacco Control Act, 2007 including public smoking restrictions, tobacco product and tobacco industry disclosures, and an annual fee placed on tobacco product manufacturers and importers, which will contribute to a tobacco control fund. (via Tobacco Control Laws Organization)

Rolled back gains

However, a recent study in three counties (Nakuru, Kisumu Mombasa and Nairobi) points to a roll back in those gains due to the cunny ways BAT and other Tobacco product manufacturers use to reach the youth and other non-smokers.

The prevalence of tobacco use among the youth in Kenya is 36.7 per cent, compared to 11.6 per cent among the older population.

According to the Ministry of Health, this means that while one out of ten adult Kenyans uses tobacco products, three out of ten youths are consumers of the products.

READ: PR agency affiliated to BAT busted trying to bribe a reporter

“There is a higher percentage of users of tobacco and nicotine products among university students compared to the rest of the populace,” said Kagwe, in a speech presented on his behalf by Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache to mark the World No Tobacco Day.

Tobacco products such as nicotine pouches have been advertised as ‘cool’, thereby appealing to the youth of both sexes.

A nicotine pouch is a small bag that contains the addictive chemical nicotine and some other ingredients.

Subtle and subliminal messaging in advertising lies to people that the nicotine pouch is less harmful.

There’s also the issue of e-Cigarette, which are still harmful but fronted as non-addictive.

Peer pressure

The study shows a majority of respondents, 44.8 per cent, were influenced by friends, 17.5 per cent got initiated by peers, while 26 per cent were influenced by other elements such as the use of social media.

In August 2018, a two-year investigation in the UK by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that BAT and other tobacco companies engage in deceptive social media marketing practices to advertise cigarettes in more than 40 countries around the world.

BAT engaged in deception against its marketing policies that disallow the firm to engage in ‘viral marketing’ of products.

Paid social media influencers were making covert posts that advertised cigarettes. It was not easy to know that the posts were part of a global marketing campaign for cigarette brands.

What is more shocking in Kenya situation, is that 9 per cent of the 1600 respondents were unsure whether cigarette smoking was harmful. Some 2.3 per cent, of the respondents, said cigarette smoking was not dangerous.

These days, it is not easy to find the most graphic picture that MoH had in the past, posted in schools, health centres and public spaces. Showing the harm that cigarette smoking causes.

Google has also censored that image.

Even on the search engine, if you search for ‘deceptive marketing by BAT’, what appears first is BTA trying to defend itself. One has to engage with the second-page results to see what evil BAT has been hiding.

Even as the MoH engages in big words promising to reign on tobacco promotion campaigns, we all know how easy is it to bribe a Kenyan govt official.

Some 53.7 per cent of respondents said awareness programmes were available around their residential areas, while 46.3 per cent said they were not available. – Study

Lobby groups such as Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance and parents in every hood must pressure the government to do more in the fight against tobacco smoking.

READ: Struggling cigarette manufacturer Mastermind Tobacco claims systems hacked

There’s nothing ‘cool’ about smoking a cigarette.

The government uses a lot of money in public health funds to treat tuberculosis, and other respiratory and chronic diseases brought about by cigarette and tobacco products.

Although the mean age of starting the use of tobacco and nicotine products is 21, he said some were introduced as early as seven years. – Study

It is counter-productive that the money used to treat the aforementioned ailments is more than the taxes paid by cigarette manufacturers.

 


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