Anti-tobacco lobby lauds Mombasa, Kilifi ban on muguka

Muguka vendor dries the crop before selling. [File, Standard]

The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA), has hailed Mombasa and Kilifi counties for banning muguka. 

KETCA chairperson Joel Gitali, said the ban on muguka (leaves of Catha edulis, chewed as a stimulant) is a significant step towards protecting public health, particularly among the youth. 

"The decision by Mombasa Governor Abdullswamad Nassir and his Kilifi counterpart Gideon Mung'aro to ban muguka is a commendable step towards safeguarding the health of our communities, especially the young people who are most vulnerable to substance abuse," Gitali said. 

“It’s however saddening that some politicians from miraa and muguka growing areas are cutting in on the ban for political expediency. That is so hypocritical as the most affected by the country's drug menace are young men who bear the future of our nation," he added.

The governors argued that muguka, a variant of Khat has been widely consumed in coastal regions, raising concerns due to its addictive property and adverse health effects. The recent ban is expected to curb the widespread use of the stimulant, which has been linked to various social and health issues. 

Gitali further called for ban on other harmful substances, particularly shisha and trendy tobacco products, which are often illegally sold to school-going children. 

"We have seen an alarming increase in the availability and use of shisha and other fashionable tobacco products among minors. These substances pose significant health risks and contribute to the growing problem of youth addiction," he said. 

Shisha, also known as hookah, has gained popularity among youth due to its social appeal and perceived safety compared to cigarettes. However, studies have shown that shisha smoking can be even more harmful than cigarette smoking, exposing users to higher levels of toxic substances. 

Gitali called for strict enforcement of existing tobacco control laws and the introduction of new regulations to address the emerging trends in tobacco use.

"We urge the national and county governments to extend the ban to shisha and other tobacco products that are marketed in a way that appeals to the youth. Enforcement of these bans must be robust to prevent illegal sales to minors," he stressed. 

The KETCA chairman also highlighted the importance of public awareness campaigns to educate communities about the dangers of these substances.

"Education and awareness are crucial in the fight against substance abuse. We need to inform our young people about the risks associated with tobacco and Khat products and empower them to make healthier choices," he said.

This comes even as President William Ruto on Monday assured leaders from miraa and muguka growing areas that the crops were covered under the Crops Act 2013 and Miraa Regulations 2023.

“With muguka having been recognised by national legislation, any other law or order that contradicts national legislation is null and void,” he said in a statement after meeting Embu leaders who protested the ban of muguka in Kilifi and Mombasa counties.