Kenya wants to classify British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya's nicotine pouches as tobacco products that are under the tobacco control law, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said Monday.
The move would place on the nicotine pouches similar marketing restrictions that are imposed on cigarettes and other tobacco products by the Tobacco Control Act, which include promotions and advertising, usage in public areas and use by minors.
Last year, Mr Kagwe accused the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of flouting tobacco control laws when it licensed the sale of the pouches, and subsequently demanded the regulator provide the ministry with a comprehensive report on the criteria used and circumstances leading to the registration and licensing of the product.
The Health ministry subsequently declared them illegal.
"What we were in opposition of is the terms they were operating under. We want to classify it appropriately as a tobacco product," Mr Kagwe said in response told the Business Daily queries.
The nicotine pouches are placed under the lip so that the nicotine can be absorbed by the body, but they do not contain tobacco.
BAT Kenya’s British parent company BAT Plc said last week it had opened talks with the government seeking a reversal of the ban of the nicotine pouches.
"In Kenya, we have temporarily suspended sales due to local regulatory challenges and continue to engage with the local authorities," said BAT Plc.
The firm has in recent years been diversifying from cigarettes in response to flagging sales across the world.
As part of the global strategy, Kenya was chosen to host a plant for production of non-combustible nicotine pouches targeting the African market at an estimated cost of Sh2.5 billion.
The new Nairobi based nicotine focused factory, which BAT Kenya says is the first of its kind in Africa, was part of the group's plan to follow the changing habits of tobacco consumers.
But the sale of the pouches has been strongly resisted by lobbies, which want the new products heavily taxed and regulated just like tobacco products.