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Stakeholders in Kisumu Challenge MOH on Proposed Tobacco Graphic Health Warnings

Public participation on proposed new graphic health warnings for tobacco products kicked off in Kisumu where a section of stakeholders who turned up to share their views accused the Ministry of Health (MoH) of laziness in coming up with the proposed warnings which are to be used on packaging of tobacco and nicotine products.
Speaking at the exercise held at the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu yesterday, stakeholders took on the MoH over what they said was lack of research on the Ministry’s part in formulating the new warning, adding that there’s need to ensure that the proposed warnings conform to existing laws.
The stakeholders asked the Ministry to rethink its approach to new products being introduced in the tobacco industry which, they say, is meant to help smokers transition from the more harmful traditional cigarettes to the less-riskier modern nicotine products.
The public participation exercise in Kisumu was the second for the day, with another taking place concurrently in Nyeri. The Kisumu session was however marred with delays owing to lack of venue booking by the ministry, leading to a three-hour delay in commencing the proceedings.
Speaking at the event, Boniface Gachoka, Secretary-General of the Bars, Hotels, and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BAHLITA) urged the Ministry to undertake wider consultations in considering new proposals to regulate the tobacco sector, adding that there is opportunity for the Government to consider new innovations in the industry.
“There is a lot of laziness from the Ministry of Health, because what we have witnessed is the copy-pasting of images from different places, some which do not comply with data protection laws. We are very serious about control of tobacco products, but some of the efforts we are seeing are discouraging investments that have been made in this country for many years. That is why we are asking the Ministry of Health to undertake a lot of consultations and to undertake serious research in this regard,” he said.
He added: “As an organization, we have decided to support the harm reduction campaign – which is a global campaign that has introduced nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and others. This is because they are the future just as everyone else across other industries is adopting new technologies, innovating, and improving on their products.”
On his part, the⁠ ⁠ Harm Reduction Society of Kenya (HRS) Secretary-General, Dr. Michael Kariuki said:
“When coming up with these graphic health warnings, relevant authorities need to check whether they are appropriate and, particularly, whether they conform to the law because some of these products also need to have other information printed on them such as their composition, warnings, and manufacturers’ emblems. What we are saying is that we need a balanced approach to this issue and the Government through the Ministry of Health needs to engage stakeholders more in a bid to ensure that the health warnings being presented are aligned to the law.”
The Ministry of Health has invited stakeholders to submit their comments, views, representations, and memoranda on the proposed graphic warnings with in-person submissions taking place across seven counties namely Kisumu, Kakamega, Eldoret, Nyeri, Machakos, Mombasa, and Embu.
The public participation sessions continue today in Kakamega and Embu counties.
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