New drive to help millions quit smoking

smoking, no tobacco day, quit smoking

Globally, an estimated 100, 000 youth start tobacco smoking annually.

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • According to the ministry, at least 11.6 per cent of 47 million Kenyans are using tobacco products that contain nicotine, with the majority being youth aged between 18 to 35 years.

A nationwide campaign to help tobacco users  break the habit has been launched. The drive by the  Ministry of Health and health departments in the counties will include rehabilitation services.

According to the ministry, at least 11.6 per cent of 47 million Kenyans are using tobacco products that contain nicotine, with the majority being youth aged between 18 to 35 years.

“We are rolling out cessation and rehabilitation services. We will be offering counselling and other nicotine cancelling therapy to help smokers quit. For instance, there are chewing gums with reduced nicotine levels that help the addicts as they withdraw from the addiction,” said Samuel Mureithi, a member of Tobacco Control Board Secretariat and chief public health officer in the Ministry of Health.

Stakeholders raised concern that tobacco manufacturers are devising trendy products to attract young people in learning institutions such as nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes.

Globally, an estimated 100, 000 youth start tobacco smoking annually.

Mr Mureithi regretted that the prevalence of smoking in young people has increased, noting that up to 50 per cent of tobacco smokers want to quit. “The average age for those who start smoking is 21 but we are also seeing primary school children as young as nine doing it. We have those who want to quit and that is why we are collaborating with counties to establish cessation and rehabilitation services,” said the official during a stakeholders meeting in Eldoret town. 

The meeting brought together public health officers and faith-based organisations, among others, from three North Rift counties.

Mr Mureithi noted that at least 90 per cent of smokers transition to hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. “We will be offering counselling and therapy services to help them to quit,” said the official. 

He observed that a single tobacco contains over 7,000 chemicals, which have different impacts on human health.  The harmful effects of tobacco use include 12 types of cancers and reproductive health challenges like reduced libido, impotence and miscarriage.

Globally, up to eight million people die annually from tobacco smoking, according to the World Health Organization.

“From the global and national statistics, we can see that the most of the tobacco associated deaths are between 30 and 69 years. This is a huge number and this is the group that we want to target in cessation services,” stated Mr Mureithi.

Rodger Mulemi, a Tobacco Control Board member, said counties must devise ways to control tobacco usage.  

“We have legal provisions such as the Tobacco Control Act. And as the board, we have sensitised the counties to enforce these regulations. So far we have worked with 25 counties and in the next phase we will sensitise the rest,” he added.

Silas Wambwa, a non-communicable diseases coordinator at Kitale Sub-county Referral Hospital in Trans Nzoia County, said  recent studies show that farmers who grow the crop indirectly inhale nicotine. Tobacco is cultivated in Teso, Migori and Trans Nzoia counties. “The farmers dry it in a kiln, which leads to inhalation of the smoke. We are encouraging the cultivation of alternative crops to reduce production,” he added.

Dr Reuben Kipchumba, the county director of Health in Uasin Gishu County,  lamented that shisha is still used in many entertainment spots yet it was banned.  A single session of shisha smoking is equivalent to consuming 100 cigarettes.

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