•The World Health Organisation says nicotine exposure during adolescence can disrupt normal brain development and may have long-lasting effects, such as increased impulsivity and mood disorders.
•Tobacco Control Board yesterday said those nicotine delivery pouches are largely tobacco-based and must carry health warnings.
Nicotine delivery products being sold in Kenya must carry health warnings just like cigarettes, the government has said.
The products are largely sold around filling stations, but currently, there are no restrictions on age and they carry no warnings on the harms.
But the Kenya Tobacco Control Board now says those nicotine delivery pouches are largely tobacco-based and must carry health warnings.
"We don't need any new laws. Tobacco is the source of 98 per cent of all nicotine," said board chairman Prof Wilfred Lessan.
Nicotine is hugely addictive and is especially dangerous for teens whose brains are still developing.
The World Health Organisation says nicotine exposure during adolescence can disrupt normal brain development and may have long-lasting effects, such as increased impulsivity and mood disorders.
It can also cause miscarriage in pregnant women and even sudden infant death syndrome.
Prof Lessan said the nicotine pouches, made by local cigarette manufacturers, must not be sold to young people or even promoted.
"They must comply with the tobacco control act. There must be no promotions and they must not be displayed in public," he said.
Prof Lessan said the board, which falls under the ministry of health, is now training enforcement officers from all counties to enforce tobacco control laws in public.
The training was launched in Mombasa last week and will be carried out across the country.
"As advised by the WHO, anything that's addictive should be regulated," said Anthony Muthemba, a senior public health official and head of Nairobi County Tobacco Control Unit.
He spoke during the training in Mombasa.
The pouches look like small, whitish tea bags, and are placed under the lip from where the nicotine is then absorbed through their gum.
Cigarette maker BAT announced the introduction of the tobacco-free nicotine pouches in July, saying they reduce the risks associated with smoking.
“It is the smoking and the burning of tobacco that creates the risks associated with cigarettes, which is why we want to introduce the pouches,” said BAT’s Managing Director Beverly Spencer.
However, head of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance Joel Gitali warned the pouches are not harmless.
"The Ministry of Health should give us direction on this. When the Kenya Bureau of Standards licensed these nicotine pouches, what were they licensing, medicine?" He asked.
Gitali warned school children might become addicted because there is currently no restriction on their sale.
"There is currently no restriction and in this age of discovery they will get addicted and will want to go and show others," he said.
Head of the International Institute for Legislative Affairs Emma Wanyonyi called for tighter regulations to protect Kenyans from new, harmful products.
"The industry is producing new harmful products every day, so the laws must also be strengthened," she said.