MoH concerned over high tobacco consumption during festivity

A woman smokes an e-cigarette. [Getty Images]

The Ministry of Health has raised concerns over the alarming surge in the consumption of substances and drugs during the festivity season.

Use of substances according to the ministry is a trigger to multiple accidents reported across the country.

In a statement, the ministry noted the high consumption of tobacco by Kenyans.

“The State Department for Public Health and Professional Standards is concerned about the surge in drug and substance abuse, particularly the alarming rise of novel nicotine and emerging products as we enter the festive season,” reads a section of the ministry’s statement by Public Health PS Mary Muthoni.

The statement was released at a time when Kenyan roads are experiencing high traffic as individuals travel to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their loved ones.

“It is imperative to collectively address the health, economic, and social risks associated with these substances, including the concerning increase in road traffic accidents and mental health issues,” noted Muthoni in the statement.

She said that the proliferation of novel nicotine and emerging products presents a new challenge in the fight against substance abuse.

Substance abuse according to the PS affects an individual’s health, economic and social lives. 

The PS said deceptive marketing tactics, especially targeting vulnerable populations, require vigilance and proactive efforts to shield our citizens from potential harm.

A recent report released by the National Authority for Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) revealed that one in every 20 Kenyans aged between 15 and 65 years, representing 1,357, 040 are addicted to alcohol, with at least one in every 30 Kenyans aged between 15 and 65 years (877,627) are addicted to tobacco.

According to the report, use of tobacco is also high among females, as compared to men.

The report added that tobacco and alcohol are the most abused drug by primary school pupils.

The health risks associated with the substances are substantial, leading to severe physical and mental health disorders, addiction, and loss of life.

Additionally, there is an economic burden, resulting from healthcare costs, lost productivity, and strain on public resources, which undermines our social and economic development.

“A heightened risk of road traffic accidents during the Christmas festive season is linked to substance abuse,” added Muthoni.

Individuals under substance abuse according to the ministry have impaired judgment, decreased coordination, and slower reaction times due to drug use significantly contributes to the escalating number of accidents on our roads.

Road traffic accidents according to the ministry result in loss of life and injuries, imposing a considerable economic burden on individuals, families, and society at large.

“As we enter the festive season, prioritizing the safety and well-being of our communities is paramount. We urge individuals, families, and communities to remain vigilant and take proactive steps to prevent drug and substance abuse,” added the PS.

Data revealed that an average age category for initiation of tobacco, alcohol, khat, cannabis, prescription drugs, cocaine and heroin stood at between 16 and 20 years.

However, the minimum age of initiation for tobacco was six years, alcohol (7 years), cannabis (8 years), khat (9 years), prescription drugs (8 years), heroin (18 years) and cocaine (20 years).

Muthoni observed that open dialogue, education, and awareness campaigns are crucial to ensuring that Kenyans are well-informed about the risks associated with these substances.

To prevent substance abuse, she said a multi-agency enforcement team coordinated by the Ministry of Health will diligently work to enforce existing legislation and regulations related to substance abuse.

Multi-agency enforcement teams coordinated by the Ministry of Health will diligently work to enforce existing legislation and regulations related to substance abuse.

“We call upon the media, civil society organizations, and the public to support these efforts by disseminating accurate information, raising awareness, and promoting responsible behaviour throughout the festive season.

We remain steadfast in the commitment to strengthen prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation,”

In the statement, the ministry further promised to collaborate with various stakeholders, including healthcare providers, educational institutions, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations, will continue to implement evidence-based strategies addressing the challenges posed by novel nicotine and emerging products.

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