Multinational tobacco companies are now targeting the lucrative female market, a Cabinet minister has said.
Health and Sanitation minister Beth Mugo said this on Friday as Kenya marked World No Tobacco Day.
“The aggressive advertising campaigns equate smoking with liberation and glamour and are successfully luring young women into the habit.
“This has resulted in a gradual rise in tobacco use among women,” she said.
In Kenya, for example, an estimated 3 per cent of women are smokers compared to 23 per cent for men.
A recent study says more girls are taking up smoking in schools.
“My ministry is concerned that the study shows that 15.5 per cent of girls in schools have tried smoking at one time while 6.5 per cent currently smoke,” she said.
Women who smoke run a higher risk of miscarriage, delivering babies with low weight and stillbirths.
“My ministry has advised the relevant government departments to raise taxes on cigarettes,” she said.
This year’s theme is “Tobacco and Gender-Marketing to Women”.
Meanwhile, cigarette manufacturers have been accused of displaying ineffective signs on tobacco packets.
Civil society groups said pictures and graphics should be used in addition to the warnings.
The Institute for Legislative Affairs’ Ms Emma Wanyonyi said in Eldoret that there were 4,000 known chemicals in tobacco, 850 of which could cause cancer.