In response to growing legal concerns and mounting pressure from Members of Parliament (MPs), the Ministry of Health has established a technical team tasked with reviewing the Tobacco Act of 2007.
This move comes as MPs call for a ban on Velo, a brand of nicotine pouches distributed by British American Tobacco (BAT) in Kenya.
Nominated MP Sabina Chege questioned the Health Cabinet Secretary, Susan Nakhumicha, during a parliamentary session, raising concerns about the addictive nature of Velo and its potential health and social impacts.
Velo, a rebranded version of the previously banned Lyft, has faced scrutiny for its availability in the Kenyan market and its adverse effects.
Health Cabinet Secretary Nakhumicha clarified that Velo is imported from Hungary and distributed by BAT in Kenya, and while BAT had plans to manufacture nicotine pouches locally, this has not yet begun.
The ministry indicated his aim to review the existing Tobacco Act and present its recommendations to the health committee for consideration.
Nominated MP Irene Mayaka echoed concerns about the accessibility of Velo nicotine pouches, particularly among school-going children, and called for a total ban due to the product’s rapid onset of effects.
Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wagwe emphasized the urgency of addressing the issue, highlighting the potential harm to the youth.
The controversy surrounding Velo (formerly Lyft) raises questions about the adequacy of health risk disclosures on the packaging, as required by law, and the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies, including the Bureau of Standards.
The popularity of these nicotine pouches among young people has surged since their introduction to the market in late 2019, prompting a reevaluation of the regulatory framework governing such products in Kenya.