Dorcas Kiptui, the Head of Tobacco Control in the Ministry of Health’s Department of Non-Communicable Diseases, reaffirmed that using social media platforms to promote cigarettes and other tobacco products is unlawful.
Despite the fact that Kenya’s Tobacco Act banned tobacco advertising in conventional media in 2007, Kiptui claims that certain tobacco industry participants are increasingly exploiting social media to advertise the highly addictive product to Kenyan customers.
According to Kiptui, who was speaking on the Monday Report show, tobacco sellers are using Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to circumvent the law meant to protect Kenyan consumers against exposure to harmful promotions.
These promotions, Kiptui added, increase local tobacco consumption in several ways, most notably by encouraging children or young adults to start smoking. Once youth get hooked to tobacco at an earlier age, it becomes increasingly difficult to give up the addiction-causing drug which kills approximately 8 million people per year.
“All forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship are banned including on the internet so these people you see selling on Facebook, Instagram and on any other social media and even blatantly online are violating the law,” she said.
To remedy the problem, Kiptui went on, MoH needs to work in tandem with other government agencies to enforce the Tobacco Act on social media platforms, and identify users who infringe them. According to Kiptui, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising on social media are important to reduce youth smoking rates and to support adult smokers to quit.
“We are going to work with other agencies including the Communication Authority, CA, to strengthen the enforcement and also to work with other governments to manage cross border advertising,” she added.
With the world set to observe World No-Tobacco day on Monday next week, Kiptui added that MoH will continue to sensitise Kenyans on the harmful effects that smoking can have on one’s life, both in the short and long terms.
“We are further going to strengthen the tobacco cessation and most importantly the community awareness so that people can know the harmfulness of tobacco products,” she said.