Today, I’m compelled to not only support Tobacco Cessation in Kenya but as well champion for a tobacco tax increase by 15% as a fundamental step towards an increase in government revenue and better public health.
Does the photo below leave you with goosebumps? Does it give you joy?
Well, this is an innocent child. Does the industry care about him or his innocence is a conduit to a multibillion business? In the next five years or so, the child’s lungs are exposed to too much damage that cannot be reversed. This is why this year’s World No Tobacco Day, celebrated on the 31st of May, was themed “Commit to Quit”. When tobacco users quit smoking and using other tobacco products, it is a win for better health and a lower mortality rate (Blecher et.al, 2018).
This is how we let people’s lungs look like when we just sit back and say YOLO.
The consequences go far and beyond the lungs damage, the skin is affected, and even oral health. According to the American Lung Cancer Association, when burnt, tobacco has more than 7000 chemicals, 69% of which are extremely toxic and cancerous. The chemical component in Tobacco sums up to Tar used on the road, why then should dignified citizens be allowed full exposure and accessibility through enabling price affordability to these products? Imagine this. The major cause of the alarm is the 11.8% prevalence rate as highlighted in the WHO global report on trends in prevalence 2000-2025)
The world is bleeding from the over 8 million lives lost every year due to tobacco and tobacco products use. Civil Society Organizations such as the National Taxpayers Association(NTA) Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA), International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA) just to mention a few have fought for the implementation of Tobacco Control initiatives in the last decades with better progressive results. Following the WHO FCTC framework, a unified exercise tax system is most likely to control tobacco consumption. The European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention journal also justified the implementation of “Tax policy aimed to significantly reduce the affordability of tobacco products is the most effective policy tool to encourage cessation and therefore to improve the health status of quitters both in the short term and later in life” (Immurana et.al, 2018). Lots of lives have been lost because of “tar” and as Tobacco Tax Ambassadors, we say enough is enough! Public health must come first. We want the younger generation healthy and in school to be sure of a healthy tomorrow, unfortunately, that won’t happen for as long as we put the nicotine pouches in their vicinity and worse is, allow them to afford the products.
For anyone who has not witnessed a classmate drop out of school because of the mental complications brought by the use of nicotine, this may sound like a story. Worse is a situation where you are in a public school, you lose your Mathematics teacher due to throat cancer and you are not taught for an entire term. Think also of the children from families where parents are tobacco addicts, and they won’t just ask them to smoke far away. If we are true patriots, why wouldn’t we join in the advocacy for a tax increase of 15% on tobacco products to reduce affordability while giving children and youth a conducive environment for tomorrow? It would still be ethical to increase revenues within this spectrum as discussed by Muchangi & Kimani. The recent study by NTA on Effects of Tobacco Taxation on Tobacco Consumption in Kenya has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the implementation of a uniform exercise tax rate of 2500 would commendably edge tobacco consumption by 3 million compared to the 761 thousand resulting from the tiered tax system. This is critical in the fight for tobacco cessation for better public health and Kenya Revenue Authority as the scenario results in a win-win tactic (Wanyonyi, E., & Carmona, 2018)
In a bid to foster responsibility, key stakeholders within the organization have successfully championed a 2% Annual Solatium compensatory contribution by the industry manufacturers to support the overwhelming health sector in providing the affected individuals with medication. This was once a tough journey involving litigation but finally a win. Similarly, the journey towards better public health begins with realizing that tobacco products (cigarettes, pouches, lyft’s) are not as cool as victims are deceived since they have a lifetime health impact. This year, we recognize the “quitters as the real winners” as we champion an enabling environment (tax increase to reduce affordability) while stimulating a positive response towards quitting. The journey isn’t easy but together as patriots, it can be sojourned! VIVA!
Student- University of Nairobi
B.Com- Supply Chain Management & Procurement
Blecher, E., Dauchy, E., & Ross, H. (2018). The Impact of Tobacco Taxes in Kenya on the Decision to Smoke and Long Term Health Outcomes. Tobacco Prevention & Cessation, 4(Supplement).
Immurana, M., Boachie, M. K., & Iddrisu, A. A. (2021). The effects of tobacco taxation and pricing on the prevalence of smoking in Africa. Global Health Research and Policy, 6(1), 1-10.
J. Muchangi, T. Kimani, Unify tobacco tax to boost revenue, Rotich advised, The Star, 26 June 2019,
Wanyonyi, E., & Carmona, M. (2018). Tobacco taxes: a win-win strategy for public health and government revenue in Kenya. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 16(1).
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: an overview, January 2015, accessed July 2021
World Health Organization, Joint national capacity assessment on the implementation of effective tobacco control policies in Kenya, 2012, accessed July 2021