December 2014 TheStar; An estimated 2.5 million adults in Kenya are regular users of tobacco; this is according to a study conducted by government.
The Global Adults Tobacco survey shows 11.6 per cent of the adult population either smokes or uses smokeless tobacco.
Although the findings show more men using tobacco than women at 19.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent, the latter’s behaviour is said to be influencing especially female teenagers in schools who look at it as “a cool thing”.
According to the findings, which were established from 5,376 households countrywide, 7.5 per cent of tobacco users reported having started the habit when they were less than 15 years old.
And as more women continue to embrace the practice, the findings show a cascading effect to girls who are getting influenced to the habit.
“Overall, 41.3 per cent of current smokers initiated smoking between 20-24 years of age, while 32.3 per cent initiated between 17-19 years, 13.5 per cent between 15-16 years,” the report says.
The findings were released yesterday at Laico Regency by the ministry of Health in conjunction with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
While majority of males prefer smoked tobacco at [72.2 per cent], 83 per cent of their female counterparts consume smokeless, with 16 per cent others saying they smoke.
This is despite 92.8 per cent of adults saying they believe smoking causes serious illness that include lung, bladder and stomach cancers, stroke, premature births and bone loss.
“The effects of tobacco are not well understood by the general public,” Health PS, Khadijah Kassachoon said as she called for the implementation of tougher laws to discourage more people from engaging in the practice.
Among measures MoH has proposed to reverse the deadly trend include sensitising and discouraging the public from smoking by putting pictorial warning labels on the packets, in addition to the text messages.
“Approximately half of smokers report thinking about quitting because of the labels; evidence from the world shows that pictorial warning labels are more effective at encouraging smokers to quit and stop youth from starting.”
The findings further said that at least nine out of every 10 adults [88 per cent] believed that exposure to second hand smoking causes serious illness, with 97.2 per cent of current smokers supporting the law prohibiting smoking inside restaurants.
“We will enhance public awareness campaigns on the harmful effects of second hand tobacco smoke, while building capacity for the enforcement of smoke-free laws,” the director of Medical Services, Nicholas Muraguri said.
Muraguri blamed the “very cheap” cost of tobacco products in the market, saying it was contributing to more people consuming them, “because they can easily afford them”.
He further accused cigarette retailers of flouting laws on selling the products, which require that shoppers buy a full packet as opposed to single sticks.
The research found out that current smokers spend an average sh1,072 per month on manufactured cigarettes, which represents 14.7 per cent of the monthly per capita gross domestic product.
At least 3.1million adults [14.3 per cent] are exposed to tobacco smoke at home, while 700,000 adults who work indoors are exposed to tobacco smoke at their work places.
Another 3.1 million adults and 500,000 others are exposed to tobacco smoke when they visit bars/nightclubs and universities respectively.
The research further established that an estimated 69 per 100,000 deaths in Kenya for adults aged over 30 years are as a result of tobacco consumption, with non communicable diseases contributing up to 50 per cent of admissions in public hospitals.
“As you are aware, smoking in all public places is banned in Kenya. All owners of premises are called upon to comply by posting notices and eliminating the designated smoking areas,” Kassachoon said.
She called on the Division of Environment Health “to establish a comprehensive enforcement mechanism for the Tobacco Control Act, in collaboration with other relevant agencies”.
MoH has further proposed an increase in tobacco taxes “because it is a win-win for Kenya and it will be a reduction of health risks and increased revenue”.