NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 4 – Tobacco companies and traders have dismissed the proposed Tobacco Bill 2018 terming it “too oppressive” and a tax collection strategy under the guise of public health.
The Bill, which is currently at the public participation stage, seeks the creation of a County department responsible for health, which will issue licences for retailers of tobacco and anybody found manufacturing, distributing or selling any tobacco product within Nairobi will have to follow the law.
If not, the manufacturer, wholesaler or distributor will be fined up to Sh50,000 or one-month imprisonment while a retailer will face Sh10,000 fine or one month in prison, also employing the under-aged to sell or supply any tobacco product will attract fines as well.
In a statement, Retail Association of Kenya and the British American Tobacco have argued that if the Bill is signed, the law will push many small businesses out of work and negatively disrupt the country’s tobacco sector.
According to British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya Managing Director Beverly Spencer, the demands in the Tobacco Bill 2018, represent over-regulation and are way above Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act 2007.
“While we understand the need for sensible regulation, the extreme restrictions at the point of sale, for instance, may result in unintended consequences like harassment and arrests,” she said.
The CEO of Retail Association of Kenya Wambui Mbarire said the Bill introduces a number of new and additional tobacco control measures, some of which would have unintended consequences for thousands of small businesses in Nairobi County.
“For example, the Bill introduces another business license for all businesses that sell tobacco, from the manufacturer-distributor and wholesaler to all vendors and kiosk owners. This proposal, at a fee yet to be defined, looks to be more of about addressing a shortfall in tax collection than it does addressing public health – in the process unfairly targeting the small business people who work so hard,” she said.
Also commenting on the issue, Acting Chief Executive of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce George Kiondo said it’s vital for elected officials to understand the potential impact that their proposals could have on business in Kenya.
Kiondo said the new licensing requirements has the potential to increase illicit trade and sale of substandard goods, therefore posing a huge problem for the industry and the country at large.
“In this regard, the chamber would like to urge the health services committee of Nairobi City County to rethink their proposals on the Bill so as to provide an enabling business environment for the economy,” He said.