A consortium of consumer protection organizations has raised a red flag over the presence of harmful and blacklisted tobacco products in the Kenyan market.
A new report by at least three organizations uncovered serious violations of the Kenya Tobacco Control Act due to continued sale of the highly-addictive nicotine pouches in the country.
In a press release the findings indicates that pouches were introduced in 2019 under the brand name Lyft, but were stopped by Cabinet Secretary for Health in October 2020 because they were illegally registered by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board as a pharmaceutical product.
The report titled ‘Assessment Report on the Tobacco Industry Interference with the Regulation of Novel Tobacco Products in Kenya’ was prepared by the Consumer Information Network, the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, and the International Institute for Legislative Affairs with support from Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), a global Tobacco Industry Watchdog.
The government had outlawed the sale of nicotine pouches which was in the market under the brand name “Velo” unless the product fully complied with the Tobacco Control Act
“The report recommends improved enforcement of bans or regulatory mechanisms by the relevant regulators. It has been noted that there has been a rise in availability of pouches in the market via the brand name Velo which despite non-compliance with the ministry’s directive has been found to be sold,” the study report indicates.
The Executive Director of Consumer Information Network Mr. Samuel Ochieng expressed fears that victims or users of the products have suffered health complications such as headaches, nausea, sore mouth, gum irritation and disease, dizziness, increased risk of relapse to tobacco products and nicotine addiction.
“Nicotine as the primary constituent in nicotine pouches has been proven to have various adverse effects on human health. These include increased risk of fatality when suffering from cardio-vascular disease, effects on reproduction, increased cancer risks, impairment of adolescent brains, reduced cognitive ability and increased risk of heart attack among others,” he added.
The report is the culmination of concerted efforts from the three organizations bolstered by input from the Ministry of Health, the National Parents’ Association, media, victim/user groups, academia and research entities, youth group representatives and other key health stakeholders in the civil society.
The introduction of nicotine pouches in the country was based on the assertion that they were less harmful than other conventional tobacco products (cigarettes) and that they would help to wean tobacco addicts off of products such as cigarettes as a part of Harm Reduction Therapy (HRT).
By Wangari Ndirangu