Global Health Now: Inside Big Tobacco’s Hardball Tactics in Kenya

23 January, 2024

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Drop the cancer mention and reduce the size of the health warning — or no new factory in Nairobi.

That was British American Tobacco playing hardball with Kenya’s Ministry of Health in 2021 correspondence uncovered by The Examination, Africa Uncensored, and The Guardian.

The tussle was over nicotine pouches BAT wanted to sell in Kenya, The Examination reports. The white pouches (now marketed as Velo) release a burst of nicotine when tucked between the lip and gum.

Warning size: Kenya’s tobacco regulations required health warnings to cover a third of the package’s front and half the back. BAT wanted just 10% of the front, per The Guardian.

- BAT Kenya’s managing director Crispin Achola wrote to the health ministry in September 2021 that the reduced health warning would allow the company to “operationalise” the proposed $15 million nicotine pouch factory.

- The ministry agreed to a warning that covered 15% of the pack’s front with a watered-down warning.


- Reporters couldn’t confirm the factory’s construction had begun, though advocates say part of an existing BAT factory has been converted to manufacture pouches.

- Health officials worry the pouches, which are popular among young people, will lead to a new generation addicted to nicotine and more likely to start smoking.


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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: