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How higher taxes on nicotine are driving up black market demand

How higher taxes on nicotine driving up black market demand

Excise increases by the Kenyan Revenue Authority (KRA) on nicotine alternatives to cigarettes is yet another blow to Kenya’s 2.5 million smokers, many of whom are struggling to quit warned Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA).

Kenya already boasts some of the highest taxes for vaping products in the world, and the 4.97 percent inflation increase on vapes and nicotine pouches will put them even further out of reach of adult smokers.

“while other countries are moving towards a healthier, smoke-free future through their promotion of e-cigarettes and pouches as quitting devices, this sudden tax increase is pricing safer alternatives out of the reach of Kenyans,” said Joseph Magero, Chairman of CASA.

Evidence-based global research by groups such as the Royal College of Physicians and Cochrane Library shows that alternative nicotine products are roughly 95% less harmful than cigarettes and are effective at helping smokers quit. 

CASA believe that tobacco-free nicotine products have the opportunity to reduce smoking rates in Kenya, but only if they are offered as affordable alternatives to cigarettes.

CASA also expressed concern that tax increases would act as a further draw to the criminal networks who are smuggling illegal vapes and nicotine pouches into Kenya.

“Over the last year, we have seen a massive influx of illegal vapes and nicotine products on sale in Kenya. There is clearly a demand for safer nicotine products so rather than driving smokers to buy from criminal sellers the KRA should look at how they can bring sales within the legal market.”

“The Government is losing out on tax. Smokers are being forced to use unregulated products or else go back to cigarettes. The only winners in this situation are the criminals who are seeing their demand levels and profit margins soar.”

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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