Kenya’s Court of Appeal in Nairobi on Friday, February 17 2017 upheld the country’s 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations, affirming a lower court’s findings and rejecting legal challenges to the regulations from British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya.
Activists have described the court’s decision as a resounding victory for public health and one that allows the government to move forward with implementing a law that they feel will help protect Kenyans from the consequences of tobacco use.
As a party to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Kenya is legally obligated to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use.
Included in Kenya’s Tobacco Control Regulations are requirements for picture-based health warnings and strengthened protections against secondhand smoke. The regulations also require tobacco companies to pay an annual fee into a designated tobacco control fund to assist the government in paying for the harmful health effects of tobacco use for Kenyans.
Friday’s ruling, said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, sends a strong message that BAT’s legal claims were without merit and that tobacco industry interference in laws to improve public health will not be tolerated.
According to him, the ruling also has implications for other African countries where tobacco companies are interfering in efforts to pass and implement proven tobacco control policies.
In Uganda, for example, BAT has also filed a legal challenge against a tobacco control law aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use.
His words: “Kenya’s Court of Appeal ruling is yet another blow for BAT, a company currently under investigation in Kenya for the alleged bribery of government officials. A 2015 investigative report broadcast by the BBC disclosed extensive evidence, supported by previously secret documents, that BAT paid illegal bribes to influence members of parliament, gain advantage over competitors and undermine tobacco control policies in multiple African countries.
“We congratulate the Government of Kenya for its resolve in standing up to Big Tobacco. Today’s decision sends an unequivocal message that African governments can and should move ahead with efforts to reduce tobacco use even in the face of legal challenges from tobacco companies. Around the world, the largest multinational tobacco companies are increasingly losing legal battles to block and delay tobacco control measures.”
According to scientists, tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death.
“Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives this century,” warned Myers.