The government of Kenya banned the importation, manufacture, advertising and sale of the shisha yesterday, Thursday. In a Gazette notice, health Secretary Cleopa Mailu noted “No person shall import, manufacture, sell, offer for sale, use, advertise, promote, facilitate or encourage shisha smoking in Kenya”
The ban comes in the wake of mounting pressure especially after Rwanda outlawed shisha two weeks ago. On December 15th, Rwanda outlawed the importation, advertising and smoking of shisha over health concerns.
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The Gazette notice went further to warns those found contravening the rules that they will be “liable to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both.”
Shisha ban? Let’s go to Court
A bid by manufacturers and promoters of shisha to block the ban was dealt another blow on Friday after the High Court declined to suspend it. The complainants said that the decision by the CS was irregular, biased and in bad faith. They wanted it lifted pending hearing of the case. However, Justice John Mativo said he could not issue any orders until all parties are heard. They are required to return to court on 4th January.
Kenya has had its fair share of challenges with the tobacco industry ever since it banned cigarette smoking in 2011. Bullying and lawsuits are not a new phenomenon in the murky tobacco industry. Where legislation has helped reduce fatalities in the west by controlling the industry, economic mercenaries have descended on Africa. A continent with a large population of youth, it is seen as a ripe market for the peddling of tobacco products.
The theatrics following the ban on shisha all seem to follow a similar path. Health implications notwithstanding, those who market shisha have a couple of manipulations in their arsenal to ensure a steady stream of customers. Heroin and marijuana were some of the flavours offered. That was before the ministry of health banned 19 flavours that were found to be laced with heroin and marijuana.
Shisha smoking involves a glass-bottomed water pipe, a hookah, in which flavoured tobacco is covered with a paper foil and roasted. One can use wood, coal or charcoal to burn to heat the tobacco and create the smoke. Before inhaling, the tobacco passes through a water pot.
Following the ban, Kenya becomes the third country in East Africa to outlaw shisha after Rwanda and Tanzania.