Statement of Joel Gitali, Chairman, Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance October 3, 2019
NAIROBI, KENYA – The letter to the President of Kenya from the manufacturers of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes opposing the proposed excise rates increase in the Finance Bill 2019 is yet another strategy by the tobacco and alcohol industries to defeat policies that meant to safeguard public health.
The government should focus on the wider benefits of raising taxes on tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and other health unfriendly goods. As we strive for universal health coverage, we cannot oppose measures that will reduce demand for goods that cause diseases, disabilities and death.
The President should not accept to be blackmailed into not signing the 2019 Finance Bill into law. We request the President to consider the health of Kenyans and it’s international obligations and sign the bill.
Similarly, the government should also ratify the international protocol on the elimination of illicit trade in tobacco products. The government cannot appease criminals by retaining low tax levels as a way of curbing illicit trade. The crime should just be eliminated as taxes go up.
We cannot afford to subject ourselves to ridicule. Kenya has been recognized as a world leader in matters of tobacco control. We cannot be seen to trade on our integrity with uncaring profit seekers. We must lead the region as we have always done. We also call upon the government to operationalize the tobacco control find. This fund is long overdue.