, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 28 – With various research studies indicating that tobacco use in Africa would double over the next twelve years, the Kenyan government has embarked on an ambitious strategy to reduce the habit by five percent by 2015.
Dr William Maina, the Head of Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation Division of Non Communicable Diseases, on Tuesday observed that tobacco use in the country among males had already reduced from 23 percent in 2003 to 18 percent in 2008/09.
Dr Maina however noted that women were fast picking up the habit thereby increasing the need to enhance campaigns against it.
“So what are we saying here? We don’t want people to relax and feel we are doing very well. Our aim is to gradually reduce smoking by five percent in five years so that we move to 13 percent,” he observed.
He added that the government would put in place a framework that would jump start the tobacco cessation programme to support smokers quit the habit.
“Consumption of tobacco among school going children had gone up to 18.6 percent because they think smoking is sexy, stylish and cool. And you know one thing is that tobacco contains nicotine which induces dependence and the person becomes a tobacco user for life,” he said.
Dr Maina also alleged that a lot of illegal tobacco was finding its way into the Kenyan market. He added that his ministry would combine efforts with the national tax collector to ensure that the culprits were apprehended.
“You might find that maybe the industry production of cigarettes is not too high but we know that a significant proportion of cigarettes get into the country through illicit trade. The fgures are not even available at the Kenya Revenue Authority,” he claimed.
He further accused small scale tobacco sellers of ignoring the directive by government not to sell single cigarette sticks.
“The Tobacco Control Act prohibits the sale of tobacco in sticks; they must be bought in a packet of not less than 10. It also prohibits sale of the drug through automatic vending machines because we want the retailers to determine the age of their consumer,” he said.
He added that the habit increased poverty in the country due to the number of deaths it caused: “It (tobacco smoking) causes all sorts of cancers and we all know that cancer treatment is not universally available in the country and it is very expensive so most of those who are affected are the poor”.
Dr Maina also cautioned tobacco smokers against continued use as it jeopardized their health.
“Over half of the people who smoke cigarettes in their life time die. If you take 18 percent of the males in this country from the current population, you will find that we have six to eight million people in this country who are smokers and half of these will die from diabetes, amputation, heart and kidney diseases,” he said.
He added that the habit put women at higher risk due to their genetic make up.