NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 21- British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya is calling for the review of the Tobacco Control Bill.
BAT feels the regulations which took effect in 2008, are stifling its ability to develop its business further.
BAT Chairman Evanson Mwaniki said on Tuesday the tobacco regulations had slowly shifted focus from public health and were being misinterpreted by enforcement agencies.
“The regulations now focus on trade restrictions. This has led to criminalisation of legitimate trade; the tobacco industry is legitimate in Kenya,” Mr Mwaniki said.
The Chairman said the ‘criminalisation’ had limited the level of trade in tobacco products as well as limiting the level of investment.
The regulations have also been faulted for limiting BAT’s ability to interact with its customers. Currently, cigarette companies barred by law from conducting any manner of advertising or promotions, limiting access to both existing and would be customers.
BAT Managing Director Gary Fagan said a number of enforcement agencies had on many occasion interpreted the law wrongly and penalised the company.
“There are some elements of the regulations that need to be re-defined as they leave a lot of room for misinterpretation,” Mr Fagan said.
The firm is currently engaged with the Attorney General’s office to iron out some aspects of the law that it feels are prohibitive to trade.
Among the areas that the firm wants reprieve includes where there is need for recall of products or alerting the public on illicit cigarettes finding its way into the local market.
Trade in illicit cigarettes is reportedly cost Kenya Revenue Authority approximately Sh15 billion in lost revenue.
Mr Mwaniki said re-evaluation of the law would create a level playing field for stakeholders in the industry.
Trade Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere promised to engage with BAT to resolve the issues.
“We cannot kill this industry knowing very well how much it contributes to the national economy,” Mr Mwakwere said although he added it would take more than one sitting to resolve the outstanding issues.
They were speaking during the commissioning of BAT’s Sh396 million upgrading and expansion of the Primary Manufacturing Department that has increased the plant’s capacity to process leaf by 64 percent.
The BAT Kenya factory is one of the group’s four strategic factories in Africa and Middle East region, serving 16 markets within Africa.
The cigarette manufacture plans to invest a further Sh640 million next year in further plant expansion.