The nicotine found in cigarettes in African countries is 25 per cent more concentrated than the ones sold in Western countries, the Tobacco Control Board has revealed.
The revelation shows smoking is killing more people as a result of cancer in Africa than in the Western counties, with passive smokers bearing more burden as compared to the real smokers.
Besides nicotine being linked to over 250 types of cancers, more damning is the growing trend among the youngsters puffing shisha, whichis also linked to a number of reproductive health challenges.
“More worrying is the new trend where youngsters are smoking shisha, which is 10 times more harmful compared to cigarettes. A shisha puff equals to 10 cigarettes which, sadly, is eating away the younger generation,” Ms Isabella Karanja, an official with the Tobacco Control Board, said during the launch of a sensitisation campaign in Nakuru.
While puffing shisha, the users often mix it with hard drugs, which lead to a number of challenges, among them birth of premature and underweight babies and low sperm count and infertility among men. “There is still ignorance with shisha smokers who often ride on the wave of attaining a certain class, not knowing that they risk contracting life-threatening diseases and reproductive health challenges,” Ms Karanja said.
The passive or second-hand smokers, she said, are at a greater risk of contracting diseases related to smoking as a result of poor implementation of tobacco laws.
Nakuru, however, is the leading county across the country and in East Africa in implementation of policies, having upped its sensitisation efforts, law enforcement as well as putting up designated smoking zones.
“Nakuru is still leading in terms of implementing the policies. It is among the counties where smoking has been banned in public offices and enclosed zones. It is also one of the counties with effective designated smoking zones,” Karanja says.
Nairobi, however, tops the counties with poor implementation of the tobacco laws, owing to the high number of smokers, according to the board.
Tobacco growing areas including Migori, Nyamira, Meru and Embu among others, according to Karanja, are also at risk of contracting diseases related to consuming nicotine.
“Tobacco itself is very poisonous and only human beings consume it. Its effects often impact on the soil where the plant grows since other crops grown on the same farm will always have a bitter taste,” she said.
According to Nakuru Health Chief Officer Samuel Mwaura, the department of health will be partnering with the board in sensitising and prosecuting the perpetrators.
“Those found smoking away from the designated zones will be prosecuted. Bar owners will also face the law for allowing smokers to smoke in enclosed public places,” he said.
He said premises’ owners should put up smoking zones away from the public to avoid passive smoking.
“We cannot just sit and watch as generations waste away in the name of smoking. We will do sensitisation and prosecution where necessary,” he said.