Kenya: State Defends Ban On Smoking
The Government defended the ban on smoking in public places.
The Government defended the ban on smoking in public places. Health assistant minister Enock Kibunguchy told the House that the cost of treating tobacco-related diseases outweighed its benefits to the population.
He said that for every Sh1 that tobacco farmers and manufacturers made from growing and processing the crop, the Government loses Sh3 in health costs.
"We know there is a cost to the tobacco ban. But the Government will save more in terms of healthcare costs and quality of life will be improved," he said.
The controversial ban by Health minister Charity Ngilu two weeks ago was brought to the floor of the House by Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya (Narc).
Mr Weya warned that the ban would negatively affect tobacco farmers and other people who earned a living from the crop. But Dr Kibunguchy said the Health and Agriculture ministries were working together to ensure that tobacco farmers turned to other crops for a livelihood.
"We are advising farmers to grow alternative crops and together with the Ministry for Agriculture, we will assist them," he said.
He was replying to a supplementary question by Mr Peter Munya (Tigania East, Safina), who wanted to know the steps being taken by the Government to assist tobacco farmers.
The assistant minister said the decision was taken as a consequence of the Government's decision to ratify the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) in June 2004.
The United Nations convention, he said, required that member countries control smoking in public places and protect non-smokers from harmful effects of tobacco.
But he added: "We are not banning smoking in toto. What we are saying is that if you smoke, please smoke alone. Just die alone."
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Prof Anyang' Nyong'o (Kisumu Rural, Narc), asked the Government to move fast and ensure Parliament has legislated the ban to stop tobacco companies from blocking it using the courts.
He said the ban by the Health minister was subject to court challenges by tobacco lobbyists. "To avoid being sued by tobacco companies, the ministry should ensure proper legislation is enacted by this House," he said.
Dr Kibunguchy said there were wide consultations through a national committee of stakeholders before the decision was taken.