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Kenya: You’re Killing People, Tobacco Firms Told

THE World Health Organisation has put cigarette makers on the spot for flouting anti-tobacco laws like the ban on advertising.

Last week, health officials from Africa met in Nairobi to mark 10 years of the WHO’s framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC).

WHO’s regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in a speech read on her behalf by WHO’s country director, Dr Custodia Mandlhate, said the industry continues to package and market tobacco products in a very attractive manner despite evidence proving that it has no known health benefits, but it instead causes diseases and premature deaths.

The FCTC is the first international anti-tobacco treaty and Kenya was second to sign it.

Moeti said countries cannot continue to witness passive tobacco users losing lives prematurely.

“Public health should always have priority over any trade and economic interests because it is health that generates wealth,” she said.

Moeti described tobacco epidemic as one of the biggest threats the world has ever faced, killing nearly six million people yearly.

According to WHO, nearly 80 per cent of of the more than a billion smokers worldwide live in low and middle-income countries where tobacco-related illnesses and deaths are heaviest.

The global adult tobacco survey indicates that 19.1 per cent of men and 4.5 per cent of women currently use tobacco in Kenya.

Overall, 41.3 per cent of current smokers started using tobacco aged 20-24 while 32.3 per cent started at age 17-19.

Moeti said tobacco control has been recognised as a priority area for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Health ministry estimates that non-communicable diseases contribute nearly 50 per cent of all admissions in public hospitals in Kenya.

She urged governments to renew political commitment to the convention and allocate adequate resources for implementation to help help tame the “powerful opponent”.

Health CS James Macharia said Africa has become the main target for tobacco industry.

“Our very own Tobacco Control Act was enacted in 2007. Our experience has demonstrated that opportunities for tobacco control continue to be within reach provided that strong political and leadership remain constant,” he said in a speech read by director of medical services Nicholas Muraguri

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