Another year, 2020, is fast approaching and as we are about to make New Year’s resolutions, why not put ‘quit smoking’ on your list if it applies? There has been remarkable reduction in tobacco use across the globe and that is good news closing up this year.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released this year says that in the past two decades, overall global tobacco use has fallen from 1.397 billion in 2000 to 1.337 billion in 2018, or by approximately 60 million people.
The report attributes the decline to rapid actions taken by state and non-state players to protect communities from tobacco, save lives and prevent people from suffering tobacco-related harm.
Of note, the study shows that tobacco use among men has drastically reduced. Back home, Kenya is celebrated in the region for having robust anti-tobacco laws that prohibit smoking in public, ban the sale of tobacco products to children and also ban the sale of single stick cigarettes. But there are still concerted efforts to get the market back.
One thing that I have noted is that e-cigarettes (vapes) and shisha are being peddled to our youth. And once you get the young ones hooked to nicotine, which is an addictive product in tobacco, the next thing we’ll see is our teens and youth becoming tobacco manufacturers’ permanent clients.
We, the anti-tobacco champions, have said it again and again that tobacco is the lead cause of non-communicable diseases, infertility, difficulties in breathing, poverty, school drop-outs and many other negativities.
We have also warned that tobacco firms are keen on new long-term markets and the teens and youth are on their minds. That is why parents should be very careful especially in this festive season about what their children get up to. What may pass as a flash disk in your child’s room could be a vape; what could look like a harmless get-together at their friend’s house could lead to a shisha-smoking hangout.
We are a young economy and hooking youth to tobacco is worsening the situation because global statistics show that about one million people are driven into poverty due to the cost of tobacco addiction, a quarter of whom are children.
And it is not children alone, those of us who have gone to spend the holidays along the oceans will find it difficult to forget or forgive the contamination of our beaches and water with cigarette butts, which have some amount of plastic in them. They are, in fact, the bigger contaminants of the world’s oceans.
Another danger to non-tobacco smokers is that there are more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals in second-hand smoke. It is therefore advisable that as we get to 2020 you quit smoking and, to those who don’t smoke, let’s reach out to our friends, relatives and even enemies who smoke with the message to quit.
Joel Gitali is the Chair for Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance