Nairobi — A lobby group fighting against tobacco and its deadly effects in the country has opposed a competition for university students organized by cigarette maker British American Tobacco (BAT).
Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) has opposed BAT's 'Battle of the Minds' competition, a global talent recruitment platform, saying it is wooing varsity students into consuming its harmful products.
The lobby's Chair Joel Gitari said the multinational firm is taking advantage of Kenya's conducive environment for conducting business, where it even violates laws on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotions.
The competition is open for students who are 18 years and above. Participating students are encouraged to organize themselves into groups and come up with a business plan. Winners are offered a six-month paid internship at BAT.
"It is foolhardily and conniving for tobacco companies to purport to promote and encourage innovation and nurture creative minds while at the same time be at the forefront of the production of the products that are known to damage brain function and hamper creativity," the statement issued by KETCA noted
Gitari further faulted the Government for being reluctant in implementing the Tobacco Act which emanates from the World Health Organizations' Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO- FCTC) which was also signed and ratified by Kenya.
"Courtesy of the WHP- FCTC and the Tobacco, Control policies globally and in Kenya, the tobacco companies are finding it difficult to market and promote their deadly products through conventional media. Therefore, the BAT and other tobacco companies are investing heavily in corporate social responsibility to market their products," KETCA noted.
The Ministries of Health, Education, Information and Communication Technology and Interior and Coordination of National Government have been urged to act swiftly and stop the campaign championed in Universities.
"The Ministries should hold the BAT accountable for constant violation of the law and caution students for being lured into deceptive competition."
Gitari also urged the national government to aid county governments in implementing the Tobacco act and make sure it is affected in institutions of higher learning where tobacco is highly misused.
"The national government should implement these national laws; tobacco control act isn't just supposed to be implemented by county government. When the Ministry of Interior chips in, things work out but if it is left to counties, nothing happens.
"We are also urging university administrators to caution students against being lured by such companies as the BAT into getting involved in deceptive competitions like the Battle of minds," Gitari added.
The alliance also asked the government to consent facilitate the elimination of illicit trade of tobacco products, which has already been ratified by many countries in the region.
At the same time, Executive Director of Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations, Christine Mugo linked tobacco use to increased cancer cases in the country.
She reiterated the need for the Government to take swift action on BAT and other tobacco companies.