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Tobacco firm contests Kenyan smoking ban

Latest update : 2008-07-12

A Kenyan tobacco company filed a lawsuit against a smoking ban in public places applied by the government. For the cigarette-maker, the ban is "unconstitutional, irrational and not a legitimate exercise of state police powers".

A Kenyan cigarette-maker Friday filed a suit against a new ban on smoking in public places, opening a battle between the government and tobacco firms.

Mastermind Tobacco Kenya Limited asked a Nairobi court to nullify the Tobacco Control Act 2007 on the ground that it is "unconstitutional, irrational and not a legitimate exercise of the state police powers," three days after it entered into force.

"The act creates penal sanctions and/or imposes penal consequences despite the fact that neither the manufacture and use of tobacco products is a prohibited activity," according to court documents seen by AFP.

"The act consequently seeks to criminalise an otherwise lawful activity and thereby violates the constitution," it said.

The suit is scheduled to be heard next week.

The anti-smoking law, which entered into force on Tuesday, provides a legal framework to control the production, manufacture, sale, advertising and use of tobacco products.

The law bans the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 and bans tobacco firms from sponsoring public events among other things.

The courts blocked previous attempts to enforce the nationwide ban on ground that the government did not give tobacco firms enough compliance time and would force them to destroy millions of dollars worth of their products.

Last year, local authorities in the capital Nairobi and the regional town of Nakuru banned smoking in public but with mixed results.

Smokers have assailed the ban, arguing emissions from vehicles and industries as well as open sewers posed a bigger problem to the public than cigarette smokers.

Under the ban, violators are liable to imprisonment of between six months and three years or a fine of 50,000 to three million shillings (46,000 dollars, 29,000 euros).

Smoking earns the Kenya government about five billion shillings (76 million dollars, 49 million euros) a year in taxes, but the country spends 18 billion shillings (275 million dollars) on the treatment of tobacco-related diseases, according to official figures.

Date created : 2008-07-12

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