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Kenyan smokers call for an upgrade

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The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KTCA) has called on the government to ensure that smoking zones in bars as well as in designated areas of towns are upgraded to meet the required standards. According to the lobby group, majority of bars as well as smoking zones do not meet the standards and hygiene required as per the Tobacco Control Act.

Speaking during a media round table on Tobacco Control in Kenya, KTCA coordinator Thomas Lindi said  they are working with the Nairobi County to see to it that smoking zones in bars are fully covered so that there is no smoke that goes outside to expose the non-smokers to health risks.

“We want them upgraded from the current situation which is not safe to a more friendly and harmless environment, and also to protect the second hand smokers,” he said.

Lindi further said that they were also lobbying to ensure that the smoking signs prohibiting smoking are put in all buildings.

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Lindi gave an example of the emerging tobacco consumption products such as Shisha and e-cigarettes that have come up recently and are trending, and are being used by a large number of the youth.

“The Shisha pots being used by the youth are not hygienic and the origin of some of the flavors being used is not known. The content may have been interfered with and added with other drug substances such as marijuana, according to a research that was carried out by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse,” said Lindi.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), single session of Shisha is equivalent to smoking 100 sticks of cigarettes.

Lindi added that the alliance wants the 2007 Tobacco Control Act domesticated where issues of the emerging tobacco consumption methods are addressed. “A Bill has been drafted by the Nairobi County Government in partnership with the alliance to this effect”, Lindi said.

He emphasised that the lack of enforcement of the Tobacco control Act ten years since it was enacted is wanting and called on the government to stop deliberate exposure of the youth to these harmful products. According to the 2014 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 2.5 million adults in Kenya are currently using tobacco products.

The survey indicates that the use and involuntary exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is partly responsible for the growing number of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, which kills about 28,000 people in Kenya every year.

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KETCA chairman  Joel Gitali accused Tobacco companies of fighting to ensure that regulations  are not passed, saying although there has been progress,  the delay of  court case petitioned by the Industry stakeholders and now at the Supreme court is derailing.

“Although Kenya has made notable progress in tobacco control, the tobacco industry and its allies have continuously used various strategies and tactics to discredit, delay and derail the implementation of tobacco control policies through legislative and litigations processes”, he insisted.

On the effects on tax policies, a policy and governance expert Vincent Kimosop said raising taxes on tobacco will be the most effective tool to reduce tobacco consumption. “On average, raising tobacco taxes to increase prices by 10% is estimated to reduce tobacco use by 4 percent in high-income countries and by around 5 percent in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)”, Kimosop  said .

According to WHO, tobacco use is known to cause over 6 million deaths globally each year. About 600,000 of these deaths occur as a result of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke.

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