Kenya is developing certification standards for processing and distributing non-combustible nicotine products.
British American Tobacco Kenya has disclosed to shareholders that the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) is spearheading the process for the products the firm expects to help retain health-conscious consumers who have been gradually moving away from tobacco smoking.
“Our introduction of modern oral nicotine pouches in Kenya in July 2022 manifests progress in broadening access to reduced risk products in Kenya,” the firm wrote in the 2022 annual report.
“Additionally, the Kenya Bureau of Standards has been at the forefront in facilitating the development of product standards which once adopted will guarantee the quality of products in the specific categories.”
BAT resumed the sale of tobacco-free nicotine pouches in July last year under Tobacco Control Act after the products were temporarily banned in October.
The sales had been frozen after the Kenyan public health authorities questioned the registration of the nicotine products under the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), insisting they should fall under the same regulatory framework as cigarettes.
BAT Kenya imports non-combustible nicotine products, under the ‘Velo’ brand, from other countries, particularly South Africa, despite putting up the factory in Nairobi at a cost of Sh1.5 billion.
A further Sh1 billion budget for commercialising the factory is yet to be spent with the firm insisting the nicotine pouches need a less stringent taxation and regulatory framework than what the Tobacco Control Act stipulates.
The law has put marketing restrictions such as promotions and advertising as well as use in public areas on the new products as is the case for combustible tobacco such as cigarettes and smokeless categories including e-cigarettes.
The firm insists the use of nicotine pouches was responsible for reduced smoking rates in Sweden, adding that the US, the UK and France have also “recognised that alternative nicotine products are likely to be less risky than smoking”.
A host of civil society lobbies such as the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA) have, however, contested that position, calling for heavy taxation and regulations on products associated with increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders.