After the World Health Organisation (WHO) had issued a report detailing how harmful the smoking of the water pipe popularly known as Shisha pipe, Kenya’s government did not waste time in moving to ban the smoking and sale of Shisha. But according to a Kenyan minister, the move was a premature one and will have adverse effects on the economy.
Tourism Minister Najib Balala was quoted as saying that the move was “miscalculated” and will hurt the economy. He also went on to slam the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) of pretence, saying it is closing clubs “after failing to regulate issues.”
Minister Balala’s argument is that shisha is a globally used product and banning it was a wrong move. Instead, the government could have taxed it. Kenya's health ministry announced the ban in December, citing health concerns. The ministry said that violators of the ban would be held liable for a minimum fine of $490 or imprisonment of up to six months.
Shisha is commonly smoked in clubs. In seeking to control the situation the government also moved in to close the clubs. For Balala, the NEMA has failed its regulation prerogatives.
“You do your job, we will support; but you don’t wake up overnight and ban shisha or start closing clubs. The whole world has shisha, why ban it in Kenya? If we have issues of health, put a tax. Why don’t you ban cigarettes? Why don’t you ban alcohol? I am not a smoker so I am not defending shisha smokers.”
Despite the shisha ban, it was still being smoked in some entertainment joints in Mombasa and Kilifi counties. Mr. Balala said a number of youth have been rendered jobless following the shisha ban and closure of the clubs.
The key is not to frustrate certain business owners, Balala argues. Too many regulations will impede successful investment in the country and that will subsequently affect the economy of Kenya negatively.