Kenya’s Ratification of ITP a Big Boost to the Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic

Statement of Joel Gitali, Chairman, Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance May 06, 2020

NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenya becomes the 59th party to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. This is a bold step in support of tobacco control and the fight against the deadly effects caused by tobacco use in the country.

The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance is a non-profit organization that brings together civil society organizations (CSOs) involved in tobacco control and health promotion in Kenya.

On behalf of civil society organizations and individuals involved in tobacco control and health promotion in Kenya, I wish to congratulate and commend the government of Kenya for ratifying the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. Indeed, this is a strong statement reaffirming the government’s commitment in the fight against illicit trade in tobacco products and largely, the fight against tobacco in the country.

We all know that tobacco is the leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and especially cancer and a major factor in environmental degradation. Due to the illicit trade in tobacco products, the government loses billions in terms of revenue. Our efforts to reduce demand for and supply of tobacco products by increasing prices and limiting supply are frustrated by those who engage in illicit trade. It’s therefore important for Kenya to join the international community in tackling the menace.

It’s regrettable that it has taken Kenya, a country that is regarded as the regional leader in tobacco control, a very long time to ratify the protocol, since May 2013.

It’s our hope that the same laxity will not apply in the implementation of the Protocol, which officially becomes part of the Kenyan laws. The experiences we have had in implementing tobacco control policies such as the Tobacco Control Act CAP. 245A and Shisha Ban should be avoided. The law should not just be part of our collection of legal documents but a tool to help us add value to the lives of Kenyans.

The ratification of this protocol is a major boost to the fight against tobacco and its harms in the country.

The Protocol seeks to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products in line with Article 15 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by establishing a range of measures to prevent illicit trade and promote law enforcement.

The illicit trade poses a major challenge to public health and tobacco control because it makes tobacco products more accessible and affordable, and particularly harms vulnerable groups, including young people and poor Kenyans.

Another incentive for combating illicit trade is the loss in revenue that Kenya suffers due to smuggling – which is believed to be perpetuated by some companies to avoid taxation.

The Protocol will also contribute to combating organized crime internationally by providing a legal basis for international cooperation to strengthen tobacco control interventions in countries.

Further, with the protocol in place, Kenya now has grounds to enact stronger policy and laws to control of illicit trade in tobacco products.
Illicit trade in tobacco products, estimated at about 14 per cent in Kenya.

“Illicit trade poses a serious threat to public health because it increases access to – often cheaper – tobacco products, thus fuelling the tobacco epidemic and undermining tobacco control policies. It also causes substantial losses in government revenues, and at the same time contributes to the funding of international criminal activities,”

The World Health Organization ( https://docplayer.net/21313481-The-protocol-to-eliminate-illicit-trade-in-tobacco-products-an-overview.html )

The protocol is also important for Kenya in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts globally are warning that smoking worsens the effects of COVID-19. It is however, regrettable that tobacco products are regarded as essential products in Kenya. As measures are put in place to combat the COVID-19, we continue to urge the government to delist tobacco from the list of essential products and put in measures to promote tobacco cessation to support Kenyans who want to quit tobacco use.

We look forward to working together with the government, our regional and global partners for successful implementation of the Protocol.