Should we introduce classes on tobacco control in our schools as early as possible?

Joel Gitali is Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance Chair. [Photo, Courtesy]

Tobacco control lessons should not only be introduced in our curriculum, but also examined as a mainstream subject.

This will help cut down on the increasing numbers of our teenage sons and daughters who first start smoking tobacco products before graduating to hard drugs. Available statistics indicate that 10 per cent of our school going children aged between 13 and15 use tobacco products. 13 per cent of our boys are on tobacco as are 7 per cent of our girls.

Parents and all Kenyans of good will must know that some of our children are duped to believe that there is such a thing as safe cigarettes. Worse still, some teachers smoke openly, blowing the second hand smoke to their pupils and students.

Tobacco related deaths in Kenya stand at 174 per week according to studies from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. By making our children from nursery to tertiary level know the effects of tobacco smoking, we would be laying safe foundation for their future health.

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This lessons will especially help children who come from tobacco growing areas and are exploited as cheap labour, exposing them to infections caused by coming in contact with tobacco leaves. There are reports that Shisha makers and manufacturers of chewing gum are lacing their products with tobacco. It is only through education that we will help our youth dodge this. It is time we woke up and start teaching and examining tobacco control.

Mr Gitali is Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance Chair

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