•The Supreme Court’s decision is a resounding victory for public health - Bintou Camara, Director of Africa Programmes at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
•Today’s decision sends an unequivocal message that African governments can and should move ahead with efforts to reduce tobacco use even in the face of legal challenges from tobacco companies.
International groups have praised the Supreme Court for upholding the 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations in its ruling on Tuesday.
Justice Njoki Ndung'u ruled that the regulations conform to the Constitution, whose main goal is to protect health and lives of Kenyans.
The regulations, published by the Cabinet Secretary for Health in December 2014, make it mandatory for all tobacco manufacturers and all dealers to pay a new tax of two per cent of the value of tobacco products manufactured or imported by the manufacturer or dealer in a financial year.
US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the ruling sends an unequivocal message that African governments can and should move ahead with efforts to reduce tobacco use even in the face of legal challenges from tobacco companies.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is a resounding victory for public health and allows the government to implement a law that will help protect Kenyans from the devastating consequences of tobacco use,” said Bintou Camara, Director of Africa Programmes at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The CTFK is a Washington DC-based non-profit that advocates in favor of reducing tobacco consumption.
Camara said as a party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Kenya has international obligations to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use.
She noted the ruling is yet a blow for BAT, a company currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom and in Kenya for the alleged bribery of government officials in multiple African countries to influence MPs, gain advantages over competitors and undermine tobacco control policies, as documented in a 2015 BBC investigative report
“BAT’s claims in a press release issued this morning that it makes significant economic contributions to Kenya are complete nonsense. The costs of treating the death and disease caused by smoking in Kenya – diseases like heart disease, lung disease and cancer – far outweigh any supposed contribution the company makes,” she said in a statement.
The ruling follows a similar decision against BAT by the Constitutional Court of Uganda earlier this year, where BAT tried to challenge strong tobacco control laws in Uganda including smoke-free public places and a ban on tobacco sales to anyone under 21.
“We congratulate the government of Kenya for its resolve in standing up to Big Tobacco,” Camara said.
“Today’s decision sends an unequivocal message that African governments can and should move ahead with efforts to reduce tobacco use even in the face of legal challenges from tobacco companies.”
Separately, the African Tobacco Control Alliance commended the judiciary for its determination to uphold the health of Kenyans.
“Today’s ruling in favour of the regulations for the third and definitely the last time, proves that Kenya values the health and wellbeing of its people, and stands firm against the tobacco industry’s tactics to block or delay the adoption and implementation of effective tobacco control policies,” said Leonce Sessou, the executive secretary the alliance.
ATCA is a Togo-based tobacco control organization, which monitors developments in pursuit of a tobacco-free continent.
Sessou noted that Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act 2007 will now be fully implemented and will greatly contribute to the protection of the lives of millions of Kenyans from the harmful effects of tobacco.
“Kenya’s triumph offers hope for the challenges ahead and reassures us that public health will prevail when forces are united against the tobacco industry and judicial authorities ensure the strict respect of countries’ legal frameworks,” he said.
Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death.