A last-minute amendment of the Excise Duty Bill last week, may destroy gains made against tobacco abuse since 2008. The suspicious amendment moved by Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat lowers taxes on cigarettes, making them cheaper to buy. Cancer advocates and some economists say the move will rapidly increase use of tobacco, currently the biggest known cause of cancer in Kenya. Head of the International Institute for Legislative Affairs; Vincent Kimosop said:
“The amendment has disastrous effects. It makes cigarettes cheaper and reduces revenue. The amendments completely reversed gains made in using fiscal policy to advance public health objectives. It will also affect our standing in the global community where we were respected as a champion in tobacco control. The amendments clearly work in favour of the tobacco companies” he said.
The amendment says that 1000 cigarettes known as a mille, will be taxed Sh900 and not Sh2500 that was initially recommended. Most countries are hiking taxes on cigarettes to discourage smoking and lower cases of cancer and heart diseases. Over 8 billion sticks of cigarettes are smoked in Kenya every year, according to recent statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Langat claimed that, through his amendment, he was giving poor Kenyans cheaper but “quality” cigarettes and fighting counterfeits.
“We are proposing this so that the low cadre of Kenyans can access quality cigarettes and those who can pay, can pay more but still access cigarettes so that we do not resort to counterfeit” he said in Parliament. Experts and advocates have now asked President Uhuru not to assent to the Bill. Kimosop says the trend across the world is to tax all tobacco products equally to prevent users from switching brands and types due to price differences. Chairman of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance said: “Despite the heath hazards, cigarette smoking in the country has continued to increase a move blamed for the rise of disease like lung cancer, asthma and other respiratory disease.”
WHO says increasing cigarette prices is the best way to discourage young people from picking up the habit. Kenya is currently battling a rise in cancer and other killer non-communicable disease. The rise in these diseases is blamed on lifestyle choices, including increased cigarettes and alcohol use. View full article
John Muchangi (07 September 2015) Kenya: experts oppose new cigarette law [online newspaper]. Retrieved from http://ow.ly/RSweW