How State has been fighting to stop tobacco use in Kenya

Finished cigarettes [Courtesy]

Quitting smoking is not the easiest of the tasks, according to smokers themselves and some experts, who say it is better not to start smoking at all rather than start and begin the fight to stop.

The Ministry of Health has been making efforts to stop, or at least reduce smoking in Kenya. The efforts have included imposing a ban on smoking shisha. The government has also been reluctant to legalize marijuana despite campaigns by some groups for it to do so.

A report by the International Tobacco Control (ITC) revealed most smokers (73 per cent) would wish to see more health information on packets of cigarettes rather than warnings on dangers of smoking.

Another 84 per cent are in favour of more health information on smokeless tobacco rather than the warnings.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) wants Kenya to increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packets, from the current 30 per cent to the required 50 per cent.

An FCTC report also found introduction of picture warnings significantly increased the effectiveness of cautions.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. But even so, if you see the same image several times, you will develop tolerance for it and it stops having the shock value it had the first few times you saw it. So, it may not work as well long-term,” says Dr Munyu, a chest physician.

The ITC also singled out the high rate of purchasing single cigarettes as a serious challenge to efforts towards reducing tobacco use.

The Health ministry says it will ensure its ban on packets containing less that 12 cigarettes is fully enforced.

The report found 82 per cent of smokers preferred buying a single cigarette than a pack.

The government has also banned tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. However, the ministry has observed that new and emerging products have been manufactured in an attempt to subvert the law.

Those behind some of these products have claimed they are non-tobacco and non-nicotine.

On May 4, last year, the government ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products to eliminate the burden it places on public health infrastructure as well as on the economic and social well-being of the people.

However, despite the measures put in place to deter smokers, statistics show more needs to be done to curb the vice, especially among adolescents and young adults.

Dr Munyu says his only advice would be for smokers to quit the habit, before it is too late.

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