Open Letter to President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta

Dear Mr President,

RE: ALARM OVER STATE OF TOBACCO INDUSTRY INTERFERENCE AND INFLUENCE IN KENYA DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Your Excellency, we wish to draw your attention to the blatant abuse of the people of Kenya and our legal frameworks for commercial interests. These include the Constitution, Tobacco Control Act 2007 and Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 as well as the provisions of the World Health Organization Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products to which Kenya is a Party. Tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases. It is sad to note, Your Excellency that this barefaced and now rampant violation of the provisions of national legislation and the Constitution of Kenya which are meant to promote socio-economic and environmental wellbeing of Kenyans, including saving lives is being occasioned by state officers’, state agencies’ and tobacco industry’s disregard of the law.

These legal obligations were adopted with the blessing of the whole of government including the National Assembly and the Senate representing the interest of our citizens.

Your Excellency, due to Kenya’s visibility as a global and regional leader in tobacco control, prevention of Non-communicable Diseases and health policy leader in general, we wish to highlight the following:-

  • BAT(K) Donation to COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund Kit
  • BAT(K) Marking World Environment Day in Collaboration with NEMA
  • Tobacco and Nicotine Products Listed as Essential Commodities During the COVID-19 Crisis

Your Excellency, we are worried that some senior officers in your government are conspiring with big tobacco and are fast ravaging tobacco control gains in Kenya and putting public health at risk. This direction by state authorities and officers, that appears sanctioned by your administration, is unacceptable. The history of tobacco industry tactics in interfering with tobacco control efforts including bribing of public officials in Kenya is well documented.

We call upon Your Excellency to:-

  1. Direct a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to tobacco control and health in general. More specifically, that all government Ministries and agencies comply with national and international laws;
  2. Return the donation of Kshs.10.6m to BAT Kenya;
  3. Demand that the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, the Ministry of Health and the National Treasury to DE-LIST tobacco and alcohol from the list of essential commodities;
  4. Assure Kenyans that your administration genuinely supports tobacco control and is aware of her obligations under national and international law;
  5. Ensure that state agencies and state officers strictly adhere to tobacco
    control legislations, regulations and measures regarding tobacco
    advertising promotion and sponsorships (TAPS) including at points of sale where there is an increase in tobacco industry branding and display of products, and interaction with the tobacco industry;
  6. Ensure that stringent action is taken against state officers helping the
    tobacco industry circumvent the law thus putting the lives of Kenyans at risk;
  7. Ensure that tobacco industry players not adhering to the provisions of the law of the land are denied permits to operate in Kenya;
  8. Make a public pronouncement on this matter to put to rest the ‘rat chase’ with the tobacco industry in regard to the circumvention of the law and irreconcilable conflict of interest between public health and commercial interests.

Download Open Letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta