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Kenya records decline in smoking

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 – Kenya celebrated this year’s World No Tobacco Day on Tuesday with news that the rate of smoking was decreasing in the country.

Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaaz Sharif said tobacco control efforts in Kenya were bearing fruit seeing a reduction in the rate of smoking.

“As indicated in the 2008-2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the rate of smoking has decreased from 23 percent in 2003 to 18 percent in 2009. We should therefore accelerate the momentum to achieve more especially in reducing the habit among youth,” stated the Minister.

The rate of tobacco use has been on the rise over the years, according to the Health Ministry, with 18 percent adult males actively smoking and 12.7 percent of school going boys and 6.5 percent of school going girls engaged in smoking.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the world, continuing to claim 22,100 lives in cancer deaths annually.

Also speaking at the forum, Tobacco Control Board Vice Chair Irene Wanyoike said, for this reason the goal of the Tobacco Control Act to reduce tobacco-related deaths is yet to be realized.

“Kenyans continue to die from tobacco-related diseases. The intention of the FCTC was to reduce tobacco related deaths. Is Kenya backsliding to the delight of the tobacco industry? Who is celebrating today?” she said

Kenya, as member of  the World Heath Organization (WHO), signed and ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on June 25, 2004 and domesticated it through the Tobacco Control Act 2007.

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So far the government has banned smoking in all public places, curbed illegal trade of tobacco products and encouraged tobacco farmers to diversify to healthier alternatives.

Most recently public health officials in conjunction with WHO sought to increase taxes on tobacco products, aiming to discourage consumption and reverse the fall in revenues from the industry since late last year.

If the proposal is successful, cigarette prices will rise and fall with the existing rate of inflation starting in June, following the new budget.

Minister Mugo called upon the Ministry of Finance to formulate a tobacco taxation policy that ensures annual increment in tobacco taxation, every budget year.

This she said would “increase the accumulated tax revenue from tobacco products, which in turn should be channeled to tobacco control interventions in the country.”

Under the Tobacco Control Act, the Ministry is in the process of finalizing pictorial health warnings that will be placed on all packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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