Board wants nicotine regulated under Tobacco Control Act

Ministry of Health says nicotine pouches are hugely addictive, and dangerous for teens

In Summary

•Every year, 30,000 Kenyans die from tobacco related causes, according to Tobacco Atlas

•The TCB chairman Wilfred Lessan on Sunday said the board has officially written to the PPB asking it to deregister the products

Tobacco Control Board chairman Prof Wilfred Lesan.
Tobacco Control Board chairman Prof Wilfred Lesan.

The Tobacco Control Board wants the Pharmacy and Poisons Board to revoke the drug registration of nicotine pouches sold by tobacco companies.

The board instead wants the pouches regulated under the Tobacco Control Act, which sets strict measures on how they can be sold.

The pouches which look like small, whitish tea bags are placed under the lip from where the nicotine is then absorbed through their gum.

The pouches currently carry no health and age warnings, and are registered as drugs and allowed to be sold as “General Sales Products” which can be readily sold in all retail outlets.


The TCB chairman Prof Wilfred Lesan on Sunday said the board has officially written to the PPB asking it to deregister the products.

“We wrote a letter to the PPB to ask for degazettment of the registration of nicotine pouches. Nicotine is a derivative of tobacco and so it falls under the ambit of the Tobacco Control Act, which talks of ‘tobacco and tobacco products,” Lessan said.

TCB was created by the 2007 Tobacco Control Act to regulate all tobacco and related products nationally.

Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance chairman Joel Gitali
RESIST: Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance chairman Joel Gitali

The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance said nicotine-based alternatives to cigarettes are not safer because they also sicken and kill people.

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.

“The tobacco industry and those talking of harm reduction are deceiving the public. They are preying on the youth by promoting harmful nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes. These products compromise the body’s immunity and make users more susceptible to Covid-19 and other diseases,” KETCA chairman Joel Gitali said.

The lobbies have protested the move by the Industrialisation ministry to list alcoholic beverages and tobacco among essential products during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We call on Ministry of Health make it clear the dangers of tobacco products. Their use makes Covid-19 more severe. We are also calling on the government do delist tobacco from the list of essential products during Covid-19,” the International Institute for Legislative Affairs CEO Emma Wanyonyi said.

Wanyonyi questioned why the Poisons Board should regulate nicotine pouches, made by cigarette manufacturers.

IILA CEO Emma Wanyonyi
IILA CEO Emma Wanyonyi

“These new products are targeting the youth. Many young people are using them as the gateway to cigarettes and other forms of harmful addictions. These pouches, e-cigarettes and other heated products should be regulated under the Tobacco Control Act and not by the PPB. There is no evidence that they are being used as alternatives to cigarettes.”

Wanyonyi also urged the government to stop promotions by tobacco companies disguised as Corporate Social Responsibility.

In its 2019 report on the global tobacco epidemic, the WHO noted that there is “insufficient evidence to support the use of [e-cigarettes] as a population-level tobacco cessation intervention to help people quit conventional tobacco use” and also noted that these products are “undoubtedly harmful.”  

Kenya has the highest recorded smoking prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a survey by Tobacco Free Kids.

An estimated 11.6 per cent of the adult population (2.5 million adults) use tobacco products, and 10 percent of 13-15-year-olds (12.8 per cent boys and 6.7 per cent girls).

Every year, 30,000 Kenyans die from tobacco related causes, according to Tobacco Atlas.

CAS Health Rashid Aman.
HEALTH FOR ALL: CAS Health Rashid Aman.

Health CAS Rashid Aman on Sunday noted that nicotine is not only highly addictive but is a major risk factor for NCDs such as cardiovascular, respiratory diseases and some types of cancers.

“Smokers are more vulnerable to severe forms of Covid-19 disease. In these challenging times, we must all play our part to ensure that we achieve tobacco gree generation, in order to avert deaths from NCDs,” Aman said.

He further emphasised that the country has banned tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship by the Tobacco Control Act, and urged the enforcement agencies to ensure the ban is enforced.