Tobacco use puts a number of lives at risk in Kenya, says Ministry of Health

By Samuel Ouma

Tobacco has been identified as a major risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases in Kenya.

Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has revealed that the product account for more than 50 per cent of hospital admissions in the country.

Tobacco has been linked to cases of vascular diseases such as high blood pressure and stroke. Others are Chronic respiratory diseases such as Asthma.

CS Kagwe further noted that tobacco also causes cancer of the lungs, throat, mouth, skin – as well as kidney diseases leading to kidney failure among many other debilitating health conditions.

Kagwe made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by Dr. Ephantus Maree from the Ministry during the launch of Tobacco free farms project in Migori town, south-Western Kenya.

The project which is an initiative of the WHO, WFP and FAO aims at offering alternative farming crops to tobacco farmers.

“In addition, tobacco is associated with reproductive problems such as infertility, impotence, miscarriages and reduction in libido, sudden infant death and in particular among tobacco farmers persistent skin conditions and green-leaf disease,” added the CS.

The CS said every year tobacco kills more than 8 million people, with about one million of these deaths occurring among non-users, including children and women resulting from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

He pointed out that most tobacco-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like Kenya, prematurely (that is below the age of 70 years) among the productive members of the society hence retarding and reversing the social and economic development of these countries.

The CS noted that the health, socio-economic and environmental harm caused by tobacco production and consumption not only affect individuals, but also families and society at large.

“Indeed, this is a complex menace and must be fought from all fronts. It requires unrelenting efforts from all sectors and a whole of society approach,” he added.

Kagwe said the Government of Kenya signed and ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC) in 2004 which has been domesticated by the Tobacco Control Act of 2007.

He said that the purpose of the Tobacco Control Act is to protect all Kenyan citizens be they adults, youth, children, smokers and non-smokers as well as tobacco-farmers.

The CS said the Ministry of Health being the steward in the implementation of these two legal frameworks, has established successful collaborations with other sectors and partners to implement the Tobacco Control Act.

“Kenya has adopted the Motto “Towards a Tobacco-free Nation’ as the vision of our national tobacco control efforts,” he added.

Kagwe noted that the provisions of the Act have facilitated effective policy interventions to reduce the demand and supply of these poisonous products through a multi-sectoral approach to facilitate a whole-of government integration of tobacco control.

The CS noted that so far, Kenya has made tremendous efforts to implement key demand reduction strategies including ban on smoking in public places to achieve smoke-free air and ban on sale of tobacco products to children among others.


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