UPDATE 07/10/19: Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has declared the registration of nicotine pouches popularly known as LYFT illegal.
In a letter to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board CEO Fred Siyoi, the CS wants the nicotine pouches deregistered. He argues its licensing was done contrary to the provisions of Section 25 of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act CAP 224.
“The nicotine pouches neither meet the descriptions of ‘Part I Poison’ nor “Part II poison’ as prescribed in the Act,” the letter reads in part.
“Further, the manner in which the product is sold to the public does not meet the provisions of Section 23 of CAP 244 as required.”
Parents on Wednesday August 26 called upon the government to ban a new product known as Lyft introduced by a tobacco firm tested over concerns that it is being abused by children.
Lyft is a nicotine pouch marketed by British American Tobacco (BAT-Kenya) as an alternative to cigarettes for addicted smokers.
The product has been gaining popularity since being introduced in the market late last year. Spot checks by 254news.co.ke can establish that it is sold over the counter and is easily found in supermarkets and local shops at Ksh20.
While pouches are marketed as a safer alternative for smoking addicts who want to quit the habit, nicotine is still a highly addictive substance.
Many users reveal that it gives a feeling of being high in a very short span between placing it in the mouth and the time it takes effect. The effects can be further heightened if one has been drinking alcohol.
However, National Parents Association Chairman Nicholas Maiyo told the Daily Nation on Wednesday that Lyft is being abused by school-going children.
Mr Maiyo warned that children might become addicted because there is no restriction on sale of the product.
“Currently, there are no restrictions on age. We demand that the government conducts tests on this drug,” he urged.
What Lyft Contains
A warning written on the product reads: “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”
Reached for comment by the Daily Nation however, BAT Kenya Head of Corporate Affairs Caroline Mavuti discloses that Lyft is a tobacco-free modern oral nicotine pouch.
“It is made from high-quality ingredients, including pharmaceutical grade nicotine, water, eucalyptus and pine tree fibres, flavouring and sweeteners,” Ms Mavuti explained.
She also added the product does not contain tobacco.
“Lyft’s ingredients meet both EU and US quality standards and have undergone extensive testing by BAT’s team of over 600 scientists and engineers,” she stated.
The product, she revealed, is sold in general sales outlets in numerous countries worldwide, including the UK, Sweden, US, Denmark, Austria, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Not good for children
However, she cautioned the modern oral nicotine pouches are designed for adult smokers only and not children.
“At BAT Kenya we take youth access prevention very seriously. Whilst we believe it is critical that the product should be made accessible to adult smokers and nicotine consumers in the same locations that cigarettes are sold,” stated Ms Mavuti.
“In addition to complying with the law, our international marketing principles provide detailed guidelines on all aspects of the marketing of our new category products, which includes a commitment to market them responsibly and only to adults.” she added.
Ms Caren Owili, a parent in Kisumu, claimed her underage cousin was taken to hospital after consuming two Lyft sachets. She said nicotine sachets are available in shops and should be banned.
“It is tiny tea bag-like sachet with a white substance. It makes one high. My cousin was taken to hospital after consuming two sachets,” Mrs Owili told the Daily Nation.
Another parent, Mrs Margaret Otieno, who is a mother of two, revealed that every time she raised questions about the drug with her children, they said it is legal.
“I have talked about it, but they tell me it is legal and readily available in chemists,” said Mrs Otieno.
The pouch is usually placed inside the mouth between the lip and gums for extended periods.
The product, introduced into the Kenyan market last July, has in the last few months been the subject of social media conversation because of its addictive nature.
Campaign for Safer Alternatives Africa Tobacco Harm Reduction revealed that the product is not meant to be sold to children.
“I would advocate it for people who are trying to quit smoking. It shouldn’t be sold to children under 18,” warned Mr Joseph Magero, the organisation’s tobacco safety expert.
BAT announced early this year that it will build a Ksh2.5 billion factory in Nairobi to produce the nicotine pouches for the African market.
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