Why war against shisha use, sale is far from being won

Smuggling has been blamed for the continued use of banned shisha, especially in entertainment spots. This revelation was made during a stormy stakeholders' meeting called by the Tobacco Control Board in Nairobi to regularise the ban as ordered by the High Court.

Kepha Ombacho, the director of public health in the Ministry of Health said the Government had not licensed any importer or outlets to trade in shisha, confirming fears that the banned tobacco product was finding its way into the country illegally.

“I can confirm to you that nobody has been licensed to import or sell shisha in Kenya, and so those who are doing so are engaging in illegal business contrary to the law,” said Dr Ombacho.

Stakeholders comprising Government agencies, anti-tobacco advocates, shisha users and sellers heard that sale and use of shisha was still rampant.

A statement read on behalf of the Kamukunji Deputy County Commissioner named nine areas where trade in shisha was rampant. They are Jino Moja, behind California Police Post; Section 3; Shamahan, Lamushikil, Beirut Club, Gikondi Bar on 9th Street, Manyatta Bar on 10th Street and Casino.

The statement read: “Nonetheless, the war against shisha smoking is far from over. I urge all of us to join hands and step up the fight against this illegal activity.”

Some stakeholders, however, questioned authorities' seriousness by naming a popular club in Pangani, which has a shisha lounge despite its close proximity to Pangani Police Station.

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The club, Luna Park, is alleged to be operating a shisha den with officers from the station always looking the other way instead of acting.

Supporters of shisha use, however, urged the Government not to be selective in applying the law, arguing that if it allowed cigarette use, then it had to allow the use of shisha too.

“If the Government is to ban any form of smoking, then it has to outlaw cigarettes and use of petrol gas along the use of shisha because all of them have negative health impacts,” said one of the stakeholders.

Anti-tobacco crusaders, however, supported the ban, stating that it was important in maintaining a healthy public.

Joel Gitali, chair of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, said that was a move in the right direction if the Government was to effectively ban shisha.

 “When the judge made the ruling, she said it was in public interest and observed that due process needed to be followed to fully effect the ban,” said Mr Gitali.

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SmugglingshishaTobacco Control BoardKenya Tobacco Control Alliance