Health promotion advocates have formally solicited the government to uphold the current ban on nicotine pouches and ignore the latest by one manufacturer to allow them back accompanied by a sign. The vow by British American Tobacco, sent to Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe, on September 7, 2021, asks that their nicotine pouches, brand names LYFT or Velo, be allowed back into the market and health warning covering 10 per cent of the packet. ‘The manufacture, distribution and sale of our LYFT product have been temporarily ceased in the market since October 2020. Our resumption of factory operations and sale of LYFT in Kenya hinges on the provision of appropriate health warnings for the product,’ says the letter by BAT’s Managing Director, Crispin Achola.
Achola added that the Cabinet Secretary exercise discretion and direct that oral nicotine pouches such as LYFT (also known as Velo) apply text health warnings in the form and format as shred in this letter and as shown in the pictures in the appendix. The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA), the umbrella organization for all organizations involved in tobacco control and health promotion in Kenya, advised the Health CS to stick to the Kenya Tobacco Control Act and The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control , for outlaws any involvement of the tobacco industry in the formulation of health news.
‘The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Kenya has signed and ratified in 2004, also clearly states the industry must not sit on the table where tobacco control laws those drafted. In Kenya, the industry is purporting to draft the laws on behalf of the government. Of course, they draft loophole-ridden legislation and then wait to exploit them,’ said KETCA Chairman Mr Joel Gitali. He added that the tobacco industry has been diversifying into alternative tobacco and nicotine products to grow profits in a rapidly shrinking cigarette market.
The letter by Achola says that nicotine pouches are BAT’s ‘lowest risk’ products. ‘This assessment is based on BAT’s analysis of, among others and emissions, heavy metals as well as cellular analysis across its product portfolio.’
Mr Gitali noted such assertions based on fraudulent science because there is no data to show nicotine pouches are safe or are effective to help quit cigarette smoking. ‘Nicotine pouches come with their risks, including skin irritation, addiction, and gum disease. Nicotine use during adolescence has shown to impact learning, attention span and proneness to addiction,’ Mr Gitali said. He added that Side effects of the use can include irritation of the gums, sore mouth, hiccups, nausea and most importantly, Nicotine increases relapse risk with other tobacco products noting that 10 per cent warning disintegrates when subjected to scrutiny.