Kenya MUST do More to Curb Illicit Tobacco Trade

Globally, Kenya is considered a leader in control of illicit trade in tobacco products through the Excisable Goods Management System (EGMS)

Delayed Action on Government Obligation in Tobacco Control Costly to Public Health

Kenya has made tremendous legal steps in trying to curb the tobacco menace in the country. In 2004, Kenya made history in being the second country in the world, after Norway, to sign and ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004.

As required of the parties to the WHO FCTC, Kenya domesticated the convention through the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA) in 2007 that became operational in 2008. Seven years later, through a gazette notice published the Tobacco Control Regulations in 2014, that were meant to strengthen important provisions of the TCA. It’s however important to note that the regulations have not yet been fully operational owing to protracted legal challenges.

Kenya is equally lauded for implementing the ‘Track and Trace’ system popularly known as the Excisable Goods Management System (EGMS) through the Kenya Revenue Authority. According to the World Bank Report on Confronting Illicit Tobacco Trade: A Global Review of Country Experiences, the positive experience with the system has had good spillover effects, allowing Kenya to expand the system to other excisable goods, as well as goods, from beer to cosmetics, subject to counterfeiting.

Despite all these successes, Kenya still lags behind in ratifying the protocol to eliminate illicit trade on tobacco products (ITP). It is noted that by ratifying this protocol, Kenya will form a strong basis for developing a legislative framework, in line with Article 15 of the WHO FCTC, to curb the illicit trade on tobacco products in Kenya and within the regional economic/ political block.

Suffices to note that in 2018 the national assembly unanimously adopted the proposal for Kenya to ratify the ITP and now the onus is upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to sign and deposit the protocol with the relevant United Nations (UN) agency.

The delay in the ratification of the protocol is posing as a major setback to the country’s efforts of effectively addressing illicit tobacco trading that will adversely affect other related public health measures. Moreso, the ratification of this protocol will reaffirm not only Kenya’s commitment to the protection of public health but also as a regional and/ global leader in Tobacco Control.