People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
Even as they await a crucial court ruling scheduled for 10 July, activists in Kenya continue to fight for tobacco control measures to be put in place.
The High Court is set to rule this week on whether the Kenyan Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) can become a party to the tobacco industry’s petition against proposed new regulations.
On 11 June, the High Court ruled that the government could not implement the regulations until the petition had been heard.
The proposed regulations include:
- Pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages;
- 100-percent smoke-free areas;
- Rules to prevent tobacco industry involvement in government policy-making, and
- Requiring tobacco firms to pay the equivalent of two percent of their revenue into a fund to finance research and treatment of former smokers.
“Our campaign is still on, and it covers more than just the regulations,” says KETCA Chair, Joel Gitali. We have the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Tobacco Control Act already in force. A great percentage of these can be implemented and enforced without the regulations.”
Implement law now
“For example, the law is very clear on the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) and does not need regulations to be implemented,” adds Joel. “The same goes for selling to minors, selling single (cigarette) sticks and so on.”
Industry tactics to delay tobacco control measures on the ground are nothing new in Kenya. A 2010 report by another Kenyan civil society organisation, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (ILA) noted, “The industry is an expert in mutation and adaptation … it applies both subtle and complex measures to sustain itself.”
“The industry has and will continue to oppose tobacco control,” predicted the report.
Opposition since 2011
The University of Bath has documented the industry’s lobbying against the proposed regulations in a timeline, whose first entry is dated 2011.
While the struggle to adopt the regulations continues, much can be improved concerning the existing law, says Joel.
“The Act has not been suspended: it must be our main focus. We plan to go to the counties and encourage them to come up with bylaws that are going to ensure that we get what the industry does not want us to get: 100-percent, smoke-free work places and a wider and comprehensive definition of a public place.”
The international community has a role to play, adds Joel. “I appeal to the international community to keep the information flowing, to exert pressure, talk about how (tobacco control in Kenya) has been met with a lot of resistance from the industry since 2007.”
That is the year the country’s tobacco control law was passed, after a 10-year struggle to push it through Parliament.