SPREADS COVID

Tobacco control lobby call for ban on sale and chewing of miraa

Want tobacco and alcohol removed from the list of essential products this period of Covid-19.

In Summary

• Cite unhygienic way in which miraa is handled at source and during transportation and trading

• Group says there should be a deliberate plan of action to help miraa farmers shift to viable alternative sources of income.

Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance chairman Joel Gitali and head of programmes Thomas Lindi
LOBBYISTS: Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance chairman Joel Gitali and head of programmes Thomas Lindi
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

A lobby group now wants the government to either ban or regulate the sale and chewing of miraa in an effort to combat the spread of Covid-19.

The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance on Monday noted that miraa is shared and handled with hands by harvesters and by both the buyer and seller who also handle money.

Ketca chairperson Joel Gitali further wants the government to educate the public on the relationship between the habit/business and Covid-19.

 

“Consumers share in groups. This is a contributing factor to the spread of Covid-19,” Gitali said.

“Information on effects of miraa on health should be passed to the public. There should be a deliberate plan of action to help miraa farmers to shift to viable alternative sources of income.”

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has on several occasions put miraa chewers on the spot for putting their lives at risk by not observing social distancing. He said they seem to enjoy the stimulant much more when they are closer together.

“But the enjoyment will also be the same when you put some distance between yourselves,” Kagwe said when he visited Mombasa in July.

Mombasa is one of the counties where miraa is chewed in large quantities.

Also known as khat, miraa is a popular herbal stimulant in some parts of the country. It is believed to increase energy, deepen focus and suppress appetite.

The leaf starts to lose its properties the second it is plucked from the branch, and so must be quickly sold.

 

Agriculture CS Peter Munya in May introduced guidelines aimed at saving the industry from losses.

Among them, various county governments were requested to ensure screening of miraa transporters for Covid-19 from their point of departure, or in designated screening points along the transit routes.

Some county governments such as Garissa and Mandera had already imposed a ban on the transportation and sale of miraa.

Garissa Governor Ali Korane cited the unhygienic way in which miraa is handled at the source and during transportation and trading, saying a ban would minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.

“Tobacco and alcohol should be removed from the list of essential products this period of Covid-19. It is embarrassing for a country that is highly recognised globally as a regional pace setter in matters health to publish such a list,” Gitali added.