Marketed as a safer option to those addicted to smoking, the pouch is placed between the gums and lips. Photo: Courtesy.

British American Tobacco (BAT) has been dealt a blow after Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe declared that the licencing of their Lyft nicotine pouches contravened the law. In a directive to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, CS Kagwe called for the deregistration of the nicotines pouches while demanding an explanation of how the products were licenced.

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“The manner in which the product is sold to the public does not meet the provisions of Section 23 of CAP 244 as required…In view of the above, therefore, you are required to furnish the ministry with a comprehensive report on the criteria used and circumstances leading to the registration and licencing of the product under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act,” said Kagwe.

What are they?

Marketed as a safer option to those addicted to smoking, the pouch is placed between the gums and lips for a while. Nicotine pouches are made to give the same feel as after smoking a cigarette but without the tobacco. Lyft is easily accessible as it’s sold in local shops and supermarkets for around Sh20. The nicotine pouch was introduced into the Kenyan market in July 2019 by BAT who later announced plans to build a multibillion factory in Nairobi to produce the pouches.

Since its introduction in Kenya, Lyft has met resistance from parents and anti-tobacco groups claiming it’s being abused by schoolgoing children and causing addiction among the youth. National Parents Association Chairman Nicholas Maiyo called for tests to be conducted on the product saying “Currently, there are no restrictions on age. We demand that the government conducts tests on this drug.”

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"A product that is highly addictive, which poses health risks, should not be sold freely. We want the nicotine product heavily taxed and regulated, just as we handle other tobacco products," said Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (Ketca) chair Joel Gitali.

Reactions to CS Kagwe’s announcement