Hundreds of Kenyan kids lose parents every month to preventable deaths
By JOHN MUCHANGI, Mar. 09, 2018
Children from at least 600 Kenyan families are left without one parent every month, after the mother or dad is killed by tobacco use.
The distressing reality is laid bare by the Tobacco Atlas sixth edition, which shows tobacco-caused diseases send to the grave at least 480 adult men and 150 women every month.
Still, more than 18,000 children (10-14 years old) and two million adults (above 15 years old) continue to use tobacco each day, risking cancer, numerous other non-communicable diseases and death.
“Complacency in the face of the tobacco epidemic insulates the tobacco industry in Kenya and ensures that tobacco's death toll will grow every year,” says the report released on Thursday.
The Tobacco Atlas — a partnership between non-profits American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies —maps the nature and magnitude of the tobacco epidemic across the world and provides proven solutions.
It compiles the data from ministries of health sources including publicly available reports such as the Global Adult Tobacco Survey.
Families of smoking parents are also more likely to be impoverished.
The report says a smoker in Kenya spends 15.43 per cent of their average income (measured by per capita GDP) to purchase 10 of the most popular cigarettes to smoke daily each year.
It also details the harms on the environment. It is estimated that 3,425 tonnes of butts and packs wind up as toxic trash in Kenya each year.
“This is roughly equivalent to the weight of 685 endangered African elephants,” says the report, released at the World Conference of Tobacco or Health in Cape Town.
There were 17.14 billion cigarettes produced in Kenya in 2016.
According to the Ministry of Health, the tobacco epidemic cannot be ignored any more because of its health, social, economic and environmental consequences.
“These diseases are not only burdening the health system but also resulting to high productivity costs to the economy," said Dr Patrick Amoth, senior deputy director of medical services, during the recent launch of the National Guidelines for Tobacco Dependence and Cessation.
However, tobacco growing is only a small fraction of agriculture in Kenya, with only 0.04 per cent of agricultural land devoted to tobacco cultivation.
Dr Amoth said: “The linkage of tobacco and the sustainable development goals has already been aptly demonstrated and the onus is on us to ultimately and decisively work together to ensure that effects of tobacco use and exposure are done away with. This will only be achieved by zealous implementation of the WHO Frame work for tobacco control and the Tobacco Control Act of 2007.”
Head of the International Institute for Legislative Affairs Emma Wanyonyi complained cigarette makers are fighting every attempt to reduce the number of smokers across Africa.
She said they are also recruiting children and youths to expand their market on the continent.
"In Kenya, for example, it took more than 10 years to get a comprehensive tobacco control legislation due to the industry’s interference in the legislative process. Ten years after its enactment, a legal challenge at the supreme court of Kenya prevents effective implementation of regulations developed to enhance enforcement of the law," she said.
Emma estimates that without strong and rapid intervention, cigarette consumption will increase and there will be nearly 600 million smokers in Africa by 2100.
"Africa is at a crossroads, tobacco prevalence is still low in many countries and the number of smokers (around 77 million) is also low compared to other regions. But tobacco consumption is growing faster in Africa than in any other region, except the Eastern Mediterranean," she said.