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Ministry, cigarette maker tussle over advertising

By Kamau Muthoni | July 21st 2015

The Ministry of Health has accused cigarette maker British American Tobacco (BAT Kenya) of illegally advertising its Dunhill Switch brands.

In its response to the case filed before High Court Judge George Odunga, the ministry through lawyer Kepha Ombucho told the court that BAT Kenya defied tobacco laws that bar industry players from advertising cigarettes in a bid to lower consumption.

Mr Ombucho termed tobacco industry players bullish and subversive, adding that the decision to have the brand out of shelves was in the interest of the public.

“Against the backdrop of a bullish and subversive tobacco industry the respondent (director of public health) as a duly authorised public officer acted within the best interest of the public,” Ombucho said.

The court heard that the words placed on the Dunhill packets, explaining how  to switch from a normal cigarette to a menthol one by crushing capsule advertisements were meant to increase sales of the brand in the local market.

“Dunhill Switch cigarette packets continue to infringe section 23 and 25 of the Tobacco Control Act. The words on how to switch the menthol flavour are false and are adverts aimed to display Dunhill as the best to switch to in terms of experience and taste from an ordinary cigarette,” he told the court.

Ombucho told Justice Odunga that cigarettes are lethal and although legalised worldwide, have been proven to kill 50 per cent of lifetime users.  BAT through its lawyer Nazima Malik, denied carrying out any promotions saying that the Dunhill packets have not changed since the cigarette brand was introduced in the Kenyan market two years ago.

BAT argued that it did not contravene sections 23 and 25 of the Tobacco Control Act in anyway, adding that more than 11,000 wholesalers and retailers would in turn lose their businesses if trade in the product is stopped. At the centre of the row is a notice requiring BAT to stop trading Dunhill Switch or any other cigarette packs containing the words ‘Crush the capsule’, ‘Switch the experience’, ‘Refresh the taste’, ‘Switch’ and ‘Refresh the twist’ slogans. The case will be heard on November 3, 2015.

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