Proposed tax on alternative nicotine products retrogressive – experts

Proposed tax on alternative nicotine products retrogressive - experts
Proposed tax on alternative nicotine products retrogressive - experts

Africa-Press – Kenya. Sin tax increases proposed by the government threaten to deprive Kenyan smokers of their lifeline to a healthier future and risk delivering a massive boost to illicit trade, a lobby group has said.

The Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA)that advocates for less harmful options to help smokers quit has said by more than doubling the excise duty on alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, the Finance Bill 2022 would put these significantly safer options out of reach of smokers.

This is despite the need to have them quit their addiction to cancer-causing tobacco.

“The proposed tax increases will unnecessarily condemn thousands of smokers to disease and premature death,” CASA chairman Joseph Magero said.

He spoke in Nairobi yesterday during a briefing what was also addressed by University of Nairobi’s Faculty of Medicine dons, Dr Kariuki Michael and Dr Nick Mutisya.

“Tobacco-free alternative nicotine products are proven to be 95 per cent less harmful than combustible cigarettes and the most effective method for smokers to quit their deadly habit,” Kariuki said.

“International evidence indicates that, if we want to significantly reduce smoking rates, we should adopt an excise system that reflects the relative risk model,” he added.

Mutisya said : “Under this model, high-risk products like traditional combustible tobacco incur the higher tax rates, while less risky, tobacco-free nicotine products are taxed at a lower rate to encourage smokers to switch to these safer alternatives.”

The Bill, however, proposes the opposite and will dictate that smokers stick with the deadly option of cigarettes to satisfy their nicotine craving or seek out alternatives on the black market, exposing themselves to unregulated and potentially dangerous products, the experts noted.

If the Bill is passed, e-cigarette devices will carry 40 per cent excise duty, while a new tax structure for refills means a 164 per cent tax increase will be imposed on a 100ml vape.

The excise tax on nicotine pouches will more than double from Sh1,200 per kg in the last budget to 2,500 per kg.

Kariuki said: “Our own research at the University of Nairobi shows that Kenyans are choosing to use unregulated and potentially dangerous tobacco and traditional oral stimulants, despite the existence of less risky alternatives. An excise policy that encouraged the use of products that pose significantly reduced health risks to users would help to improve health and save lives.”

Modern tobacco-free nicotine products, like pouches and nicotine replacement therapies, expose users to lower levels of toxicants and are therefore comparatively less risky, noted Mutisya.

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