Regulation of Tobacco Products

Growing up, I was not exposed to tobacco smoking. But I have a close friend who was. For what she remembers about her childhood, there is an image of her father smoking a cigarette.

The house, she says, always had a murky aura about it.

They were not well off. The father was unemployed and the mother bore the burden of single handedly fending for the family.

A coin stuck in in the corner of a purse or resting on the table was always spent on the father’s cigarettes. They knew smoking was bad, but no one had the guts to tell the father not to smoke. In Africa, you do not tell elders what to do or how to live their lives.

Even when he sent them off to the nearest shop to buy for him cigarettes, they knew better than to say no. The father “owned” the house and the compound where it sat so, he could smoke anywhere at any time.

Sadly, my friend and her siblings all grew up with breathing and chest related health complications. My friend has allergies. Her sister is asthmatic. Her two brothers have sinusitis.

Ironically, whenever they were in boarding school, the health complications never sufficed. It was only when they were at home for holiday that they seemed to catch the breathing problems.

As a child, I made an attempt at smoking. I did not have tobacco supplies. So, together with my younger sister, we rolled a newspaper into a fine size. We each lit one end of our roll and puffed at the other end.

The experience is memorable. It was terrible. On the first and final puff, I  coughed until my vision became blurry. It didn’t go any better for my sister.

We knew it was wrong to smoke, that is why we did it while in the back yard, away from the prying eyes of our mother.

Back to my friend: her father later quit smoking.

As young children, they were passive smokers and that may be the reason why they had breathing related ailments.

The dangers of smoking

Smoking is hazardous. It seems not to matter that cigarette manufacturers label the cigarettes as hazardous to one’s health.

It harms the people around the smoker; it causes lung cancer, impotence, cardiovascular disease and throat cancer. It is addictive. In women, it causes premature births, and infertility. Smoking also causes gum diseases and tooth loss, and it causes mouth cancer. If you are interested in your physical appearance, smoking causes dark lips, and dark fingers. It is sad that the worst complications brought about by smoking do not only affect the direct smokers but they also affect the people around them who inhale the smoke.

It is very easy to be a passive smoker in this city. Drivers and conductors of public service vehicles often smoke aboard those vehicles. No one heeds the requests to stop smoking because here, public service operators treat commuters poorly.

There are no places for smoking so it is also easy to come across someone smoking while they walk on the city streets. Meanwhile there are hundreds of people around him who are inhaling the smoke.

No doubt, smoking reduces one’s life expectancy. The only exception may be of the woman who went viral sometime on social media claiming she was over a hundred years and that she is a chain smoker; but only if her story is true. Smoking does not work for more than the majority of the world’s population

The law

Early this month, new rules in relation to tobacco and cigarette smoking were published The rules require the following:

Packaging and labeling

Cigarettes must bear health warnings and messages in pictures and pictograms. The messages and pictures must not be obscured; they must be clear and legible. It is required that the heath message be displayed conspicuously both on the wrapper and packet of the cigarette.

The ministry of health published a number of specified health warnings which include the health risks mentioned above and it is not required by law that those health messages should be published on cigarette wrappers and packets in rotation. The messages must be graphic.

So, under the new rules, it may not be enough to simply say “cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health”. It will however suffice if a picture of a person with a rotten mouth and missing teeth or a picture of a person dying of cancer is added to the packaging material.

No one is permitted to sale or deal in or manufacture any tobacco product with a representation or a sign which suggests that the tobacco product is less harmful to human health than other tobacco products.

Tobacco and its products are not to be sold to persons under the age of eighteen. So, if you cannot buy the cigarettes yourself, it is an offence for that kiosk attendant to sell the cigarettes to your son, even if your son is not going to smoke those cigarettes with you. Sellers of cigarettes are required to have signs bearing the words, ”the sale of or the availing of a tobacco product to a person under the age of eighteen years is prohibited by law”. the signs must be predominantly displayed at the point above the level of the counter, shelf or container from which cigarettes and other tobacco products are stored for sale or are sold.

Manufacturers and importers

For each type of tobacco product and brand manufactured or imported, the following information must be provided to the Cabinet secretary by manufactures and importers:

  1. A list of ingredients that the tobacco contains
  2. A ststement of the reasons for the inclusion of those ingredients
  3. All the toxicological data available to the manufacturer about those ingredients
  4. Information on the characteristics of the tobacco leaves used
  5. Information concerning the renaming or discontinuation of any brand produced by the manufacturer within the preceding 12 months

On a yearly basis, a manufacturer is required to provide to the cabinet secretary the following information:

  1. The quantity of tobacco products produced that year
  2. The market share
  3. Sales made and revenues earned
  4. Quantities exported, if any
  5. Affiliated organizations or agents
Protection against exposure to second hand tobacco smoke

Smokers are prohibited from smoking in a private vehicle where children are on board or on streets, walk ways, or verandas adjacent to a public place.

In areas where smoking is prohibited, a sign must be displayed bearing a warning that “it is an offence to smoke in these premises”. It must also bear the words, “penalty, Ksh 50,000/- or imprisonment for a term of 6 months or both” The sign must be in a conspicuous place.

Where an owner of premises wishes to set up a smoking area, he or she must obtain a certificate of compliance from the Director of Medical Services. In essence, the certificate of compliance would be certifying that the premises comply with section 3 of the Tobacco Control Act 2007; and in particular that nonsmokers shall not be exposed to second hand smoke.

Public- tobacco industry interactions

The rules make provision for meetings, correspondences and other exchanges between public authorities and the tobacco industry for strictly, effective tobacco control and enforcement of relevant laws.

The tobacco control board also shall convene annual public meetings at national and county level to receive reports, public views and comments from any interested persons on maters relating to the implementation of the law regulating consumption of tobacco products

Tobacco control fund

Every importer or manufacturer of tobacco products must make a yearly contribution of two percent of the value of the tobacco products made or imported to the tobacco control fund. The purpose of this fund is to make good any damage that may


The new law intends to punish manifacturers, importers, distributers and consumers of tobacco products.

Fines, imprisonment or both are prescribed for violation of the provisions of the law

Way forward

Will cigarette manufacturers make money? They may not. This accounts for their objection to the rules. However, their objection cannot stand because the High Court has already dismissed those objections.

Persons and agencies enforcing these laws must do so robustly if we are to have a healthy and tobacco free society. We have very many good laws which fail only at enforcement. This law should not be one of them.

Ignorance and disease are some of the issues that hold back our society. May be, with knowledge of what cigarettes can do, tobacco related diseases will be kicked out of the country. It will be a good step towards achieving an enlightened society, a society which makes informed decisions.


This article appears in our newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 3 of September  16th, 2016

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