BAT LYFT nicotine pouches yet to comply with anti-tobacco laws


The LYFT products sold in Kenya have only one warning on the front cover: ‘This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical’. However, health experts say that nicotine, natural or otherwise has more health dangers than addiction.

A 2015 study published by US-based National Centre for Biotechnology Information is one of the many research projects that have shown that despite being touted as a safer alternative of tobacco, nicotine is not entirely harmless for the human body.


“Nicotine poses several health hazards. There is an increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. There is decreased immune response and it also poses ill impacts on the reproductive health,” says the study lead-authored by Indian Oncologist Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi.

“The use of nicotine needs regulation. The sale of nicotine should be under supervision of trained medical personnel,” Chaturvedi added.

The health concerns surrounding the farming and consumption of tobacco products has contributed to a significant drop in smoking.

For instance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in 2020 that the number of Kenyans smoking or using other tobacco products had dropped by 16 percent to 5.9 million since 2001.


Reducing tobacco-related deaths

Kenyan government and civil society organisations have also ramped up efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths by encouraging tobacco farmers to switch to safer crops. The ‘Tobacco-free Farms Project’ in Kenya for example was started last year by WHO in partnership with the country’s government, the World Food Programme as well as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, to help farmers shift from hazardous tobacco-farming to other crops like maize and beans.

BAT has been looking to diversify its product line beyond cigarettes and has successfully added tobacco-heating products, traditional oral products (Grizzly), vapour products or electronic cigarettes and modern oral products such as Velo.

Sale of nicotine pouches in Kenya was stopped in 2019 after the country’s health ministry queried why they were regulated by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and not the Tobacco Control Board under the Tobacco Act of 2007. Their sale was allowed in 2022 after consensus that they should be regulated by TCB, meaning that they are treated as tobacco products.

Read: Kenya-Ethiopia border smugglers hiding drugs inside animals

BAT has invested $18.7 million (Ksh2.5 billion) building a manufacturing plant for nicotine pouches in Nairobi, with an eye on Comesa consumers.

Anti-tobacco lobbies want the Kenyan state to stop plans to produce nicotine pouches locally.

“By allowing continued sale of these harmful products, government is putting commercial interests before the health of Kenyans and that needs to stop,” said Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance Chairman Joel Gitali.

“BAT is clear that we sell all our products in adherence with the relevant local laws and regulations in the markets we operate. Whilst we are clear on the end goal, we are equally clear that transitioning from cigarettes cannot happen overnight. To accelerate this transformation requires the support of all stakeholders,” Achola said in response to our queries.  

The Tobacco Control Board did not respond to The EastAfrican’s queries on why this law has not been enforced on BAT, instead directing us to the Principal Secretary of medical services at the Ministry of Health, who also didn’t respond to our questions.

BAT acknowledged receipt of our questions about their compliance with the Kenyan Act but did not respond by the time of going to press.