An advocacy group on tobacco control has asked the government not to issue license for smoke free cigarettes which are set be introduced in the country.
Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) says there is no enough evidence to the claim that smoke free cigarettes are less harmful compared to actual cigarette sticks.
Smoke free cigarettes are not consumed by puffing in smoke from burning tobacco. Instead, they can be ingested.
Ideally, they are not supposed to contain tobacco, as one of the ways to encourage individuals to quit, but they usually come as an alternative to smoking which has more side effects.
British American Tobacco (BAT), during the release of their financial statement two weeks ago, announced that the giant cigarette manufacturer will be introducing nicotine pouches in the market.
These are Modern Oral Nicotine, which can be in form of pellets-like PK sweets or soluble films that are placed below the tongue and get absorbed easily through the soft tissues in the mouth once mixed with saliva.
They are different from nicotine gum which work like an Elastoplast on the skin or vapour products which are synonymous with e-cigarettes.
Tobacco alliance chair Joel Gitali said as much as BAT insists that the pouches are safe, ingesting of tobacco has still been linked to various types of cancer like oral and oesophagus whose survival rates are minimal.
For example, in 2018 4,380 individuals in Kenya were diagnosed with oesophagus cancer with 4,351 deaths.
“Those who are smoking are supposed to quit, not shift. This means tobacco companies are only out to keep their clientele,” said Gitali,
Gitali said if the government does not step in, then the nicotine pouches will be a thorny issue like shisha which was later banned.
International Legislative Affairs Chief Executive Officer Emma Wanyonyi said even if the nicotine pouches are licensed at the end of the day, they have to be subjected to the same regulations like cigarettes.
She said BAT should also disclose the ingredients of the nicotine pouches.
“The addictive nature of products is still there, so even for those who attempt to quit, the effects are still there,” she said.
Unlike cigarettes, nicotine pouches when used would not cause discolouration of teeth or lung cancer as a result of smoke from burnt tobacco. It will also save smokers, or would be smokers from the bad breaths.
Kenya’s smoking prevalence as per the latest report by the World Health Organisation(WHO) released July 26 is eight per cent among the adult population.
The report states that currently, there are an estimated 1.1 billion smokers, around 80 per cent of whom live in low-and middle-income countries.