Tobacco bribery a dirty game, says Muraguri


Director of medical services Nicholas Muraguri. PHOTO | FILE

The director of medical services, Nicholas Muraguri, has termed claims of bribery in the tobacco industry to manipulate policy as “a dirty game.”

British broadcaster BBC two weeks ago made claims that British American Tobacco (BAT) bribed MPs to dilute laws that were meant to regulate smoking.

Dr Muraguri on Tuesday said the claims of bribery to suppress legislation were surprising.

“Tobacco kills, but people from the other side are always fighting back in order to control the sales and access of these products.

“Whichever way, we are going to enforce even stronger legislation for the health and the economy of this country,” said Dr Muraguri.

He said that tobacco products, consumed in various forms, cause cancer and are a risk factor in fighting the rising cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The World Health Organisation country atlas indicate that about 370,000 Kenyans between 30 to 70 years die each year from NCDs and the prevalence of these diseases will continue to rise if more people continue to use tobacco.

Dr Muraguri said that tobacco is the most preventable causes of NCDs like cancers, lung diseases, heart diseases, and diabetes.

The BBC’s Panorama expose found that BAT paid MPs including Senator Moses Wetang’ula who was then Trade minister, to stifle tobacco legislation.

READ: BAT bribed KRA officials to spy on rival Mastermind

Dr Muraguri said that he will not be surprised to see more names of officials accused of pocketing bribes from sector players to tweak the law to favour their business.

Head of Tobacco Control Unit at the Ministry of Health, Dorcas Kiptui, said that Kenya is one of the countries worldwide that has a comprehensive legislation that measures the supply and demand of tobacco products.

Ms Kiptui was speaking during the launch of the International Tobacco Control Kenya National Report in Nairobi. She said that it is ironic for makers of tobacco products to “kill” the same people (consumers) expected to keep them in business.

She said that they will be strengthening the current health warnings on tobacco products packaging, as recommended by the report to enhance impact of protecting the public from harms of tobacco and an eventual ban of the products.

The evidence-based report shows that Kenyan tobacco users want more health graphic warnings (as compared to writings) on tobacco packages to become better informed about the harms of tobacco use.

About 2.5 million Kenyan adults consume tobacco.

“About 76 per cent of tobacco users are in favour of a ban on tobacco products within the next decade and the government is ready to provide assistance such as cessation clinics,” she said.