• May 22, 2024
  • Last Update May 22, 2024 12:06 PM
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Proposed graphic warnings on tobacco products draw criticism

Proposed graphic warnings on tobacco products draw criticism


Sunday May 5, 2024

KNA by Chris Mahandara

Stakeholders have opposed the proposed graphic health warnings on tobacco products published by the Ministry of Health to reduce consumption of the commodities in the country.

Speaking during a public participation exercise in Kisumu, the stakeholders drawn from Siaya, Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Nyamira and Kisii counties said the images proposed by the ministry were explicit and do not merit to be displayed on any consumable products.

Bar Hotels Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BAHLITA) Secretary General Boniface Gachoka said the images do not meet the moral threshold and had just been copy-pasted without any research or scientific backing.

Some of the images, he said, were dirty and should not be permitted for use on products that were in public circulation.

The government, he added, should instead fast track the licensing of nicotine pouches and vapes as an alternative to cigarettes as part of a campaign to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.

“We support the harm reduction campaign but let us not kill businesses where people have invested billions of money,” he said.

National Chamber of Commerce Kisumu Chairman Israel Agina said the images as published failed to capture the wider intention which was to lower the consumption of tobacco but appeared to be used to scare consumers off the products.

He said the business people engaged in tobacco have invested heavily and any attempt to regulate the consumption of the product must be sensitive and sincere.

“We don’t want our businesses to be ruined because of the things the ministry is currently showing to the public. We have warned them against using graphic images to scare tobacco smokers. Let them use the correct graphics and preach genuine messages to tobacco users,” he said.

Harm Reduction Society of Kenya Secretary General Dr. Kariuki Michael said the images were inappropriate and too explicit, calling on the ministry to revise them.

Whereas harm reduction was key given that tobacco kills over 9,000 Kenyans annually, Dr. Kariuki said the graphic information must be decent and acceptable.

This, he said, must come along with proper capacity building and education programmes to sensitize the public on the dangers of tobacco consumption to save children from being initiated.

He further called for the establishment of a Stop Smoking Services Department at the Ministry of Health to spearhead various programmes to help smokers quit.

The department, he said, was key in the formulation of policies targeting to lower consumption of tobacco in the country.

Consumer Information Network (CIN) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Samuel Ochieng rooted for the proposed images to be published on tobacco products saying it was the surest way to inform the consumers on the dangers they were exposed to while using the products.

“The right to information is enshrined in the Constitution. Graphic information has more impact and it is going to help those who smoke to know the dangers involved in the habit and at the same time deter those who don’t smoke from the practice,” he said.

He said the campaign must be extended to nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and vipes because they have shown to have negative effects on consumers.

Members of the public have until the end of this week to give their views on the graphic images which were published by Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Susan Nakhumicha.

This is the first time Kenya is changing the warnings since they were introduced in 2016.

According to MoH, graphic health warnings were entrenched in the Tobacco Control Act, 2007 to increase knowledge on the risks associated with tobacco use and to deter initiation to tobacco.

They were also aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and persuading tobacco users to quit as well as breaking the challenges of languages and the inability to read text only messages.

The new warnings were a set of 13 images, some showing that using tobacco causes cancer, death, impotence and harms foetuses.

There is also a warning indicating nicotine pouches are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

The law requires that warnings should be changed every two years to convey information on the many harms of tobacco and nicotine products.

Courtesy; KNA

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