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Alarm as students hooked to e-cigarette

 Some companies also market e-cigarettes using social media sites that are easily accessed by adolescents. [iStockphoto]

Consumption of e-cigarettes among adolescents and school-going children is worrying, lobbyists say.

Anti-tobacco lobby group, Kenya Tobacco Alliance Control (KETCA) has said that tobacco manufacturing companies are now using packaging that attracts the age group.

KETCA coordinator Thomas Lindi said the number of teens aged between 13 and 15 using e-cigarettes has been on the rise lately due to the marketing gimmicks employed by manufacturers.

Some companies also market e-cigarettes using social media sites that are easily accessed by adolescents. 

“All these tobacco emerging products have been designed in a manner that they are targeting the upcoming generation of tobacco users," said Lindi.

The highly addictive products, which include e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, are popular among Kenyan schoolchildren and adolescents.

Unfortunately, as manufacturers use the tricks to reach out to adolescents for profit making, consumption of the products risks their health as they trigger cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

“A lot of these products are marketed in social media pages where you wouldn’t find the older generation visiting those pages, as the older generation is ageing, they want to capture the new market," said Lindi during tobacco stakeholders engagement meeting held in Nairobi.

KETCA and other anti-tobacco lobby groups, the National Taxpayers Association (NTA), the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance of Kenya (NCDAK), the Kenyan Network of Cancer Organisations and Den of Hope have called on the government to ban importation of e-cigarettes, to prevent access by adolescents and youth who are high consumers.

Meanwhile, the lobby groups have supported the amendment of Tobacco Control Act, 2007 and Regulation, 2014 saying it signals a journey towards a healthier, tobacco-free future.

The Ministry of Health is seeking to amend the Tobacco Control Act to restrict nicotine products.

Lindi noted that review of the law is are aimed at reinforcing Kenya's commitment to reducing tobacco and nicotine products affordability, curtailing tobacco industry influence, and fostering transparent and inclusive policy making.

The lobbies said review of the laws will help prevent early tobacco use by children and young adults.

Taxation on tobacco is low, with two-tiers of Sh2,630 per mille for cigarettes with filters and Sh1,893 per mille for plain cigarettes, with 35 per cent.

According to WHO recommendation, excise tax should be 70 per cent of recommended retail price to curb cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

WHO notes that tobacco taxation can contribute to prevention of 9,000 deaths every year in Kenya.

Since 2023, review of Tobacco Control Act and Regulation has steadily gained traction, with the latest push coming from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior and National Administration.

"This is another opportunity to ensure that our Tobacco Control policies align with public health objectives of reducing consumption of tobacco products," said NCDAK official Dr Catherine Karekezi.

"Recognising the evolving landscape of tobacco use and its detrimental impact on public health, we advocate for robust measures to strengthen existing legislation and enact new provisions that align with international best practices," said Karekezi.

The group is also demanding ban of tobacco products like nicotine pouches, such as Velo. 

The lobby groups also want tobacco products to bear high resolution graphic images to show their impact to consumers and ban of promotion and sell of tobacco.

They demanded transparency in operationalisation of the Solatium Fund.

The fund was established to cater for national programmes for cessation and rehabilitation as well as capital and expenses related to research, documentation, and informational distribution on tobacco and tobacco products..

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