New headache for tobacco companies as Health ministry seeks to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes

Packets of cigarettes with health warnings. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Bid to have all cigarette packets plain.

Tobacco companies are faced with yet another hurdle as the Health ministry seeks to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes.

The move is aimed at killing the glamour of smoking to protect Kenyans from the harmful effects of the substance.

“A formal plan and timeline for implementation of plain packaging shall be developed in line with the national tobacco control programme and priorities,” said Dr Cleopa Mailu, the Health Cabinet secretary, during an event to mark the World No Tobacco Day in Nairobi yesterday.

Dr Mailu said: “This will go hand in hand with strengthening of the existing health warnings and the ban on misleading packaging and labelling. This will ensure that bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship are comprehensive”.

The move is in line with this year’s theme for the day plain and standardised packaging to encourage countries to adopt that as a control strategy.

Dr Mailu said this year’s theme was timely because evidence showed that tobacco packaging was a mobile advertisement used to promote consumption of the products.

“The industry has continued to design packages that make the products more attractive to promote consumption despite the harmful effect,” he said.

Tobacco use and exposure to second hand tobacco smoke are a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive airway diseases and diabetes.

Kenya’s 2015 STEPwise survey for non-communicable diseases risk factors, showed that 13 per cent of adults use tobacco products and one in five Kenyans is exposed to second hand tobacco smoke.

The regulations, said the CS, would help the ministry to institute pictorial health warnings on tobacco products which would further deter people from consuming them.

If Kenya goes the UK way as recommended by the World Health Organization, then 65 per cent of the front and back of all cigarette packets will be covered by health warnings, with the brand name restricted to a standard size, font and colour.