What you need to know:
- It is sold over the counter and is easily found in supermarkets and local shops at Sh20.
- Ms Caren Owili claimed her underage cousin was taken to hospital after consuming two Lyft sachets.
- BAT announced early this year that it will build a Sh2.5 billion factory in Nairobi to produce the nicotine pouches.
Parents want a new product introduced by a tobacco firm tested over concerns that it is being abused by children.
Lyft is a nicotine pouch marketed by British American Tobacco (BAT-Kenya) as an alternative to cigarettes for addicted smokers.
The product has been gaining popularity since being introduced in the market late last year.
It is sold over the counter and is easily found in supermarkets and local shops at Sh20.
While pouches are marketed as a safer alternative for smoking addicts who want to quit the habit, nicotine is still a highly addictive substance.
Many users say it gives a feeling of being high in a very short span between placing it in the mouth and the time it takes effect.
The effects can be further heightened if one has been drinking alcohol.
However, National Parents Association Chairman Nicholas Maiyo says Lyft is being abused by school-going children.
Mr Maiyo warned that children might become addicted because there is no restriction on sale of the product.
“Currently, there are no restrictions on age. We demand that the government conducts tests on this drug,” he said.
A warning written on the product reads: “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”
Reached for comment, however, BAT Kenya Head of Corporate Affairs Caroline Mavuti said Lyft is a tobacco-free modern oral nicotine pouch.
“It is made from high-quality ingredients, including pharmaceutical grade nicotine, water, eucalyptus and pine tree fibres, flavouring and sweeteners,” Ms Mavuti said.
She said the product does not contain tobacco.
“Lyft’s ingredients meet both EU and US quality standards and have undergone extensive testing by BAT’s team of over 600 scientists and engineers,” she stated.
The product, she said, is sold in general sales outlets in numerous countries worldwide, including the UK, Sweden, US, Denmark, Austria, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Adult smokers only
However, she said the modern oral nicotine pouches are designed for adult smokers only and not children.
“At BAT Kenya we take youth access prevention very seriously. Whilst we believe it is critical that the product should be made accessible to adult smokers and nicotine consumers in the same locations that cigarettes are sold,” said Ms Mavuti, adding: “In addition to complying with the law, our international marketing principles provide detailed guidelines on all aspects of the marketing of our new category products, which includes a commitment to market them responsibly and only to adults.”
Ms Caren Owili, a parent in Kisumu, claimed her underage cousin was taken to hospital after consuming two Lyft sachets. She said nicotine sachets are available in shops and should be banned.
“It is tiny tea bag-like sachet with a white substance. It makes one high. My cousin was taken to hospital after consuming two sachets,” said Mrs Owili.
Another parent, Mrs Margaret Otieno, who is a mother of two, said that every time she raised questions about the drug with her children, they said it is legal.
“I have talked about it, but they tell me it is legal and readily available in chemists,” said Mrs Otieno.
The pouch is usually placed inside the mouth between the lip and gums for extended periods.
The product, introduced into the Kenyan market last July, has in the last few months been the subject of social media discussions because of its addictive nature.
Campaign for Safer Alternatives Africa Tobacco Harm Reduction said the product is not supposed to be sold to children.
“I would advocate it for people who are trying to quit smoking. It shouldn’t be sold to children under 18," said Mr Joseph Magero, the organisation’s tobacco safety expert.
BAT announced early this year that it will build a Sh2.5 billion factory in Nairobi to produce the nicotine pouches for the African market.