Global Tobacco Control Updates
A Kenyan High Court Upholds Tobacco Control Regulations, Rejecting British American Tobacco Challenge24 Mar 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Kenyan High Court today upheld provisions of the country’s 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations, rejecting legal challenges to the regulations by British American Tobacco (BAT). The court’s decision is a resounding victory for public health and allows the Kenyan government to move forward with implementing a law that will protect millions of citizens from the devastating consequences of tobacco use. As a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first public health treaty, Kenya is legally obligated to implement measures to reduce tobacco use.
Among other measures, Kenya’s new regulations require picture-based health warnings, strengthen protections against secondhand smoke and require tobacco companies to pay an annual fee into a designated tobacco control fund. Today’s High Court ruling 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. BAT has signaled that it will appeal today’s ruling.
Kenya’s High Court ruling is also yet another blow for BAT, a company currently under investigation in Kenya for the alleged bribery of government officials. An investigative report broadcast recently 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. Additional instances of BAT misconduct were uncovered by Al Jazeera, and following both reports, U.S. members of Congress urged the Justice Department to investigate these allegations.
We congratulate both civil society and the Kenyan government for its resolve in standing up to Big Tobacco. It sends an unequivocal message for the region that other African governments can and must act to protect the health of its people. Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death. Without urgent action by more countries around the world, tobacco use will claim one billion lives this century.