Tobacco firms survive ban scare as court bars petition

 Cigarette plant at the BAT factory. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Tobacco farmers, processors and consumers have survived an attempt to have tobacco products declared illegal in Kenya after a court dismissed a petition that was challenging the legality of the production, manufacturing and use.

Ibrahim Mahmoud, in a suit where world's leading tobacco firm British American Tobacco (BAT) was an interested party, wanted the court to compel the government to ban the entire production, supply, management, dissemination, consumption and use of tobacco products and cigarettes.

He also wanted a declaration that cancer is a tobacco-related ailment and a national disaster requiring special administrative action, including allocation of special budgetary consideration and banning of tobacco products.

But Justice Hedwig Ong’udi dismissed the petition on grounds that the petitioner failed to prove the Tobacco Control Act, and the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2014 are contrary to the constitutional provisions he alleged were violated.

“It is not, therefore, enough for the petitioner to solely rely on his dissatisfaction in the use and legalisation of tobacco products in Kenya. He should avail [sic] evidence to show how the statute and regulations are contrary to the provisions of the Constitution complained of,” said the judge.

BAT, which is one of the top dividend payers at the Nairobi bourse, said the petition threatened its right to conduct legal business.

“This is since the prayers seek to completely curtail its right to manufacture and sell tobacco products. That grant of the prayers would contravene its right of legitimate expectation to carry out its commercial activities,” said BAT.

The firm said the right to ban tobacco products rests with Parliament and not the court, arguing that a veto will prompt illegal and dangerous cigarettes.

BAT Kenya half- year profit rose 8.4 percent to Sh2.9 billion.

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