Kenya Tobacco Control Board has embarked on a countrywide sensitization campaign against the use of tobacco and nicotine products ahead of the celebrations of the World No-Tobacco Day slated for May 31.
A team from the Board met with public and community health workers among other health stakeholders drawn from Nyeri, Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties in Nyeri town as a way of sensitizing them on the importance of continuous fight against the use of tobacco. The Board announced that it would be working with health officials as ambassadors to create awareness among members of the public about the dangers of tobacco use.
While briefing the press on the sidelines of the meeting, the Tobacco Control Board Chairperson Nancy Gachoka said they have already started the sensitization journey in 24 other counties adding that they would conclude the campaign by next month in the whole country.
Gachoka said they would also be creating awareness about the Tobacco Control Act of 2007.
She said the Act was adopted as a way of addressing the tobacco epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) member states through the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In Kenya, the law was enacted in 2007 as a way of regulating the use of tobacco. The law regulates cigarette smoking in public, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, packaging and labeling of tobacco products, public education among other obligations.
Gachoka said according to WHO, if tobacco use is controlled, there would be a 50 per cent reduction in tobacco related disease burden in every country.
Further, she noted that nearly 8 million people died annually due to tobacco related ailments which she said could be prevented if the public was better informed about the dire effects of tobacco use.
“1 million people, especially women and children, die annually due to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. The main aim of our campaign is to let Kenyans know if they want to live longer, then they should avoid using tobacco and all the nicotine products,” Gachoka said.
Gachoka also raised alarm over emerging tobacco and nicotine products in the country. She has said though the suppliers have said that the products were less harmful, most of them still contained nicotine as the main ingredient, a substance which poses a health risk for its users.
The emerging products include e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn products, pouches like lyft or velo, lozenges and chewing gums laced with nicotine.
“If we want to cut the use of these products, according to WHO we have to cut the supply and demand. If the demand goes down, there will be no market for such nicotine products. Creating awareness will help to reach more people especially the youths so that we can shear them from being lured into use of these products. I believe by doing this, we shall have a tobacco free generation,” Gachoka said.
Gachoka also warned about the risk of contracting cardiovascular and respiratory diseases among tobacco and nicotine users.
She said that most smokers were walking into the addiction trap without considering how they predisposed were to contracting deadly health conditions.
“Continuous use of tobacco has led to reproductive problems with cases of impotence and sterility increasing day after day among the tobacco users. For us to save today’s generation and the generation to come, we have to stop the use of tobacco among our people,” said Gachoka.
Gachoka also called on tobacco growing farmers to switch to alternative crops that do not expose them to health risks and which are also easier to harvest.
She said that they were collaborating with WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme Kenya to introduce farmers to alternative crops as a way of boosting food security and providing a different income source for tobacco farmers.
“There is an alternative livelihood. We have joined together with WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme Kenya to introduce farmers to other crops so that there will be food security and income generation to the farmers as we try to eliminate health risks associated with tobacco growing,” Gachoka said.
By Ann Ngure