Lobby opposes higher tax on e-cigarettes

E-Cigarette brands advocate Joseph Magero. [Jonah Onyango, Standard

New proposals to raise excise tax on nicotine products will push safer alternatives for smokers out of reach and help the black market thrive.

Campaign for Safer Alternatives (Casa), a lobby that aims for smoke-free environments in Africa, said the tax changes would result in higher prices of e-cigarettes, popularly known as vapes, negatively impacting those who rely on them to help them stay off cigarettes.

“Doubling the tax on vapes and nicotine pouches is the opposite of a cash cow. If anything, it will drain more money from the Treasury by forcing vapers into the black market,” said Casa chairman Joseph Magero on the proposals contained in the Finance Bill.

“Already, Kenya’s sky-high vaping taxes have created a thriving black market for vape products, with many shops selling un-taxed vapes in broad daylight.”

He said the tax increase will also raise the healthcare costs for government by leaving vapers with no choice but to revert to smoking or using unregulated black market vapes.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani has proposed to change the excise tax on liquid nicotine to Sh70 per millilitre in a bid to make it less accessible to users, including school children and the youth.

Mr Magero explained that e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, which causes most of the harm from smoking, and not the nicotine.

“In fact, the WHO includes nicotine products, such as nicotine gums, on its list of essential medicines for people who wish to stop smoking,” he said.

Mr Magero said there had been “extensive international research” into the safety of nicotine products, with some evidence showing that vaping was 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.

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