Lobby faults Treasury for high taxes on tobacco-free pouches

High taxes on safer alternative nicotine products are condemning Kenyans to smoke toxic tobacco, an anti-smoking group now warns.

The Campaign for Safer Alternatives – a Pan-African non-governmental member organization dedicated to achieving 100 per cent smoke free environments in Africa says 2.8 million Kenyans risk sliding back into toxic tobacco use owing to high cost of alternatives.

As the world marks World No Tobacco Day, CASA chairman Joseph Magero expressed his dismay at the misguided decision by the government to make less harmful products twice the price of traditional cigarettes in the forthcoming budget.

“Prohibitive taxes on nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes are putting these safer options out of reach for millions of smokers who are desperate to quit,” said Mr Magero.

“It’s an illogical pro-cigarette policy that puts us out of step with the rest of the world and means Kenya should actually be commemorating Only-Tobacco Day.”

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International research shows that alternative nicotine products are 95 per cent less harmful than traditional cigarettes, which release dangerous toxicants through the burning of tobacco.

Organisations such as Public Health England advocate that smokers switch to alternative, reduced-risk nicotine products to give up cigarettes.

But new taxes in Kenya’s upcoming budget will make tobacco-free nicotine pouches double the price of cigarettes.

This decision, adds Mr Magero, now means nicotine pouches, which are approximately 95 per cent less harmful, will be more expensive than the harmful products.

“It’s backward in every sense,” noted Magero.

“Already this year some 12,000 lives will have been lost to smoking-related disease in this country. One in three smokers wants to quit, but only 7 per cent of those who try actually succeed.”

Mr Magero noted that prohibitive taxes on nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes in the 2021/22 financial year budget will wipe out all competition to cigarettes and provide a bonus to tobacco manufacturers.

“If we’re serious about saving lives on No-Tobacco Day, all Kenyans should be saying ‘no’ to these deadly dangerous taxes,” said Mr Magero.

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