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Published:June 6th, 2006 04:56 EST
Judge Gives Smokers More Time in Kenya

Judge Gives Smokers More Time in Kenya

By Francis Karugah

Kenyans can continue smoking in public places at least for 30 days. Two tobacco firms in the country, Mastermind Tobacco and British American Tobacco, won a temporary order overturning the new laws that ban smoking in public places. However, according to the order, the forms must be filed within 21 days, and also be served to the health minister within eight days from then... otherwise it will lapse and the ban will come back into force.

The two tobacco companies claimed the health minister had turned their lawful business into a crime by making it illegal to distribute or sell their products. They said the health minister had acted in excess of her powers. She had issued the new restrictions in public places. The law also required tobacco firms to include the warning smoking kills " on all of their packets, and they argued this was not in her powers-- she was trying to regulate the nature of advertisements placed on cigarette packets and the public act did not empower her to do so. Lawyers for the two firms said these powers were bestowed on the minister of commerce.

They said the minister failed to consult them and the laws could have crippled their business, as old stock would have been rendered useless. Mastermind stated it stood to lose over 1.9 billion shilling in stocks. British American Tobacco Kenya commented that they stood to lose 920 million shillings worth of stock and contracts with tobacco farmers. The two firms do agree they don`t have a problem with the new regulation, but asked to be considered in the decision. Their representatives in court asked for the minister to consider a one year long grace period for the new laws to be effected.