Why we should support the nairobi city county tobacco control bill, 2018
By Emma Wanyonyi
In November 2018, the City County of Nairobi published a Tobacco Control Bill, which in line with legislative procedure was open for public input in January 2019, with a public participation forum being held on 27th February 2019.
As contained in its long title, the Bill seeks to “provide for the application and implementation of Article 43 of the Constitution, Section 2(c), 3, 7(b), 8(a) of part part2 of the Fourth schedule of the Constitution, in relation to Tobacco Control and for connected purposes”.
The Bill further seeks to complement the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, by amongst other things Protecting the health of Nairobians from the harmful effects of tobacco use; Reducing demand and supply of tobacco products; Protecting non- smokers and promoting their right to live in a smoke- free environment; Promoting and facilitating access to health services for rehabilitation and cessation by persons addicted to tobacco use; and providing and facilitating public awareness and education on the harmful health, social and economic effects of tobacco production and use.
The burden of tobacco in Kenya should not be underestimated. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Mortality Attributed to Tobacco estimates that Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs), for which tobacco is a major risk factor, currently account for more than 27% of the mortality and that approximately 50% of the public-hospital admissions are due to NCDs. Furthermore, according to the Global Burden of Disease data, approximately 2.2% of the deaths in Kenya are attributable to smoking.
Kenya, being a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is obligated to enact effective tobacco control legislation and promote their implementation and enforcement. Implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act, 2007 has been slow, due to challenges, including limited resources, low awareness of actors, but most critically, Tobacco Industry (TI) interference in the process.
Kenya’s current constitutional dispensation places Counties at the forefront of Tobacco Control implementation. Health is a highly devolved function. In addition, other critical aspects of tobacco control such as agriculture (provision of alternative livelihoods to tobacco farmers), air pollution, trade regulation, environmental conservation and drug control (including provision of rehabilitation services) are all devolved responsibilities of the County Governments. Counties, therefore, need to empower themselves- through setting effective policies and setting aside resources for their effective implementation. The attempt by the County of Nairobi, is very much in line with this vision and should be strongly supported!
The TI Industry has come out strongly to oppose the Bill arguing that it is “extreme” and would lead to “negative unintended consequences”. However, it is worth noting that the Industry has a global history of opposing effective TC policies. Their actions in the country are well documented, Kenyans may remember images of Parliamentarians enjoying themselves at beach resorts at the expense of the industry, each time the National Bill (currently the National Tobacco Control Act, 2007) was set to be discussed at the National Assembly in the early 2000’s. It took the country close to ten years to finally get the Bill enacted into law.
It should also not be lost to the Public that Regulations for implementation of that piece of legislation are currently at the Supreme Court of Kenya, at the instigation of the Industry! This, of course has had its impact on implementation, as the process has moved slowly from the High Court and the Court of Appeal. These are but very few examples of the lengths the industry will go to promote their commercial interests at the expense of public health!
Kenya is on course towards implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). SDG 3 (Strengthening the implementation of the WHO FCTC) is one of the key targets identified as necessary for the achievement of this goal. All efforts towards this end should be supported. The provisions of the Nairobi County TC Bill are in line with our commitments to the FCTC and our Constitution. The County of Nairobi should therefore be commended and fully supported in their efforts to protect the health of its residents!
Emma Wanyonyi is the Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Legislative Affairs