Nairobi resident sues Health ministry, seeks total ban on tobacco in Kenya


A Nairobi resident wants cigarette smoking to be banned in Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A Nairobi resident wants cigarette smoking to be banned in Kenya.

In a suit filed at the High Court, one Ibrahim Mohamud Ibrahim has faulted the government for allowing production, manufacturing, distribution, management, dissemination and consumption of tobacco in the country regardless of its effects on health.

Mr Ibrahim has sued the Ministry of Health, its Cabinet Secretary and the Attorney-General in a suit in which the British American Tobacco company is listed as an interested party.

He has challenged provisions of the Tobacco Act which allows the production, licensing sale and use of tobacco in various forms while claiming that it continues to put the health of Kenyans predisposed to cancer among other illnesses that emanate from smoking.

He argues that farmers, manufacturers, traders and consumers are at risk yet the government has created an enabling environment that leaves everyone exposed to smoking dangers.

“The petitioner challenges the holding of tobacco as a legal commodity available for exploitation and consumption by the public in blatant disregard of the effects of growing, consuming, selling and use,” said his lawyer George Kithi.

Health risks

In his case documents, he has listed the effects of smoking and its increased health risks.

He points out that in the US, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths every year than HIV, illegal drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries as well as firearm related incidents.

He has also listed some of the illnesses locally associated with smoking such as stroke, heart diseases, tuberculosis and cardiovascular disease besides cancer.

While the government banned importation, manufacture, advertising and promotion of shisha in December 2017, Mr Ibrahim alleged that the ban did not prohibit all tobacco products because there was no justification at the time for such an action to be taken.

He argues that that action only protects shisha users yet available statistics confirm that cigarettes smokers suffer similar consequences as the former.

1,200 killed

He also argues that data from NACADA indicate the smokers lose 15 years of life on average and that tobacco kills about 1,200 in a day.

He claimed that the economic interest of tobacco products on revenue for the government should not override the health of the public.

He therefore wants the court to declare that the use of tobacco products in consumable items and cigarettes described in the law governing its control, production, supply, management, dissemination and consumption is contrary to the constitution.

He also wants the government compelled to ban the entire production, supply, management, dissemination and consumption of tobacco products as well as cigarettes.

He further wants it declared that cancer is a tobacco related ailment and a national disaster requiring special administrative action which includes banning cigarettes.