Ministry of Health (MOH) has been asked to relook proposed graphic health warnings on tobacco and nicotine products to ensure they serve their purpose to help smokers quit.

This arose during a public participation forum in Nyeri after MOH published proposed graphic health warnings to cover 80 per cent of packaging on tobacco and nicotine products.

The new messages are meant to replace existing packaging warnings on these products to increase knowledge about risks associated with tobacco use to deter initiation to smoking.

The participants asked MOH to distinguish warnings on traditional tobacco products from those on the new nicotine products, which offer smokers a better chance to quit the vice.

Speaking at Kenya Medical Training College, Harm Reduction Society of Kenya Vice-Secretary General Dr Nick Mutisya called for more awareness on the two products.

“We have made vaping sound so bad, yet it has been embraced in other countries like the US and UK,” said Dr Mutisya.

He added: “We need an understanding that nicotine is not tobacco hence the need to provide safer alternatives for people,” he said.

Some of the foreseen risks of the equalization of smoking products, he said would see people going back to smoking traditional cigarettes which are harmful noting that

He noted that the differentiation of nicotine and tobacco has been clearly entrenched in the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention, to which Kenya is a signatory.

“When the e-cigarette device can have its quantity controlled, it can work to help our smoker quit as well. We are advocating for low nicotine vapes; they are safer than a cigarette,” he noted.

The relevant regulation in Kenya requires that warning messages should be changed regularly to convey information on the many harms of tobacco and nicotine products.

Separately during a similar forum in Kisumu, a section of stakeholders accused MOH of laziness in coming up with the proposed graphic health warnings and called for a review.

During the session at Tom Mboya Labour College, they appealed to the health ministry to do more research in formulating the warnings and also ensure they conform to existing laws.

The Kisumu challenged MOH to review its approach to new products in the tobacco industry which are meant to help smokers transition from the more harmful traditional cigarettes.