KENYA JOINS THE WORLD IN CELEBRATING WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY
A report by the Ministry of Health (MoH) says Kenya is making progress towards combating smoking through strong tobacco control policies like picture-based health warnings, but there still remain significant challenges. This was report as Kenya joined the world in marking World No Tobacco Day (WNTD),
While more than 220,000 children and more than 2,737,000 adults continue to use tobacco each day, every year, more than 8,100 Kenyans die of tobacco related diseases.
According to the report, it describes the findings of a national survey that was conducted twice in 2012 and in 2018 by researchers from the University of Nairobi, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, and in collaboration with the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project), centered at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Conducted among 1,500 tobacco users and 600 non-tobacco users, the surveys found that the introduction of picture warnings significantly increased the effectiveness of warnings.
Awareness of the warnings increased from 64% to 72% of smokers; thinking about the health risks of smoking increased from 28% to 43% of smokers; and smokers who said that health warnings made them “a lot” more likely to quit increased from 24% to 38%. Knowledge of many of the health effects caused by smoking increased between 2012 and 2018.
Having since 2002 evaluated policies of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global health treaty which Kenya ratified in 2004, the survey is part of the 29-country ITC Project.
As a Party to the FCTC, Kenya is obligated to implement strong national policies to reduce tobacco use, including large pictorial health warnings, bans on smoking in public places, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and increases in tobacco taxes and prices.
Following the unsuccessful challenge by British American Tobacco (BAT), Kenya had in 2016 introduced 3 picture-based health warnings on cigarette packages. However, the report also identified the need for the Government of Kenya to strengthen tobacco control efforts.
The survey also found out that smokeless tobacco is the primary form of tobacco used by Kenyan women with only 12% of smokeless tobacco users reported noticing health warnings “often” on smokeless tobacco.
At the time of the 2018 survey only 3 warnings had been implemented, and the warnings on smokeless tobacco had not been uniformly introduced even though the 2014 tobacco control regulations approved 15 new pictorial warnings for both smoked and smokeless products.
Because most smokeless tobacco is sold in loose form instead of packaged, most smokeless tobacco users are not exposed to health warnings at all. Thus, educating the public about the harms of tobacco products through health warnings on packaging is rarely effective for smokeless tobacco users, including young people who may be starting to use those products.
The report described a challenge to reducing tobacco use is the high rate of single cigarettes. The 2018 survey found that 82% of smokers reported last purchasing single cigarettes rather than a pack, about the same as in 2012. There is a need for Kenya’s existing ban on packs containing fewer than 12 cigarettes to be more strongly enforced.
From their current 30% to at least 50%, which is the required size of warnings under the FCTC, there is also a need for Kenya to increase the size of their health warnings.