Yatani revealed that the tax will be double the current excise from Shs 1,200 to Shs 1,500 per kg. The average tax increase for excisable goods was 10%, with nicotine pouches being the only product hit with a 108% increase.

In response to the proposal, Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA) chairman Joe Magero said that these taxes are pushing many smokers away from safer nicotine alternatives towards cigarettes. “Prohibitive taxes on nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes are putting these safer options out of reach of millions of smokers who are desperate to quit.”

Magero added that Yatani’s justifications for the tax are unscientific. “Mr. Yatani’s unscientific notions contradict international evidence and threaten to deprive Kenyan smokers of their best chance to kick their deadly habit. International research shows that alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, are 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes, which release dangerous toxicants through the burning of tobacco.”

Taxes on safer alternatives send the wrong message

On the contrary, the tax will actually have a regressive affect. “This increase is regressive in so many ways,” says Mr. Magero. “As well as making safer alternatives unaffordable, the tax sends the message that they’re just as harmful as traditional cigarettes, even though they are helping to reduce tobacco’s toll in more progressive countries around the world.”

“There is growing evidence that Kenyans wish to use products like pouches and e-cigarettes to cut their reliance on tobacco. Instead of putting obstacles in their way, the government should be ensuring that these scientifically-proven safer alternatives are more accessible and affordable.”

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