To tell you the truth, Pope Francis’ voice and action of banning cigarrete (smoking) at the Vatican is a timely move that will boost the war on Tobacco consumption. Kenya has a large number of Christians and particularly Catholic believers who take seriously the words of their spiritual head.
Most churches have been holding a liberal view of Tobbacco but the fact that the Pope has come out to speak will help in the fight against Tobacco use.
It is instructive to note that involuntary exposure (of non-smokers) to second-hand tobacco smoking, which is common in Kenya, is partly responsible for the growing number of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, which kills about 28,000 people every year.
We at Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) will definitely use the Pope’s stand to push our preventive and cessation campaigns against consumption of Tobacco laced products.
I am aware that emerging tobacco-laced products such as Shisha and e-cigarettes are the new fad in town but with the Pontiff’s voice, we are more than reenergised to deal with controlling their consumption.
We have the goodwill message from the Pope to talk to those who grow and sell Tobacco products to about 2.5 million adults and 1.5 million youths who use tobacco. I also believe after the Pope’s stand, our government will get thecourage to enforce the Tobacco control Act, which was enacted 10 years ago but has been subjected to endless court battles by people interested in selling Tobacco.
The ban on cigarette sale by the Pope in the Vatican is another move that will start and end in the Vatican. I think the message has not reached many people across the globe including in Kenya so that the ban can be adopted.
For example, how many churches amplified the Pope’s ban in yesterday’s services? I know of very many priests in the churches in Kenya who smoke and it is pitiable to imagine that these are the people who are expected to send the message to their flock who smoke.
The Pope was also not categorical on how Tobacco causes death and left a big doubt on his pronouncement. Kenya is a third-world country where generations have grown seeing their grandmothers and grandfathers smoke to very old age and it will be hard to convince them that tobacco kills.
Perhaps the Pope will have to demonstrate to the world and Kenya in particular that his pronouncement worked by giving us figures of reduced percentages of tobacco consumption at the Vatican after his ban.
Tobacco has its own trouble but the better way to go about it is through making laws to curb or control consumption but not through religious pronounce.
In a country like Kenya where Christians often break biblical rules at will, it is likely that the Pope’s ban will be ignored.