Tobacco epidemic a major threat to economy

Approximately 2.5 million adults (11.6%) use tobacco in Kenya

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The Global Adult Tobacco Survey revealed that approximately 2.5 million adults (11.6%) use tobacco in Kenya, of which 1 in 5 (19%) are men.

Over half of Kenyan smokers started smoking before the age of 20 and almost all started before the age of 25.

This is despite the fact that a pack of tobacco costs more than a packet of maize flour.

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The survey focused on tobacco usage among adults in Kenya.

The report was released on Tuesday morning by the Director of Medical Services, Dr Kioko Jackson at an event held at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi.

The Survey event saw the attendance of the County Director CDC Kenya, Dr Kevin de Cock, and Chair of the Tobacco Control Board, Prof Peter Odhiambo and Dr Nathan Bakyaita officer in charge at WHO Kenya.

The findings of the 2014 cross-sectional household survey form a baseline for conducting subsequent surveys to evaluate tobacco control programs and inform policy formulation.

According to GAT, it is estimated that 6million lives are lost annually due to tobacco use and exposure with more than 80% of those deaths being in low and middle-income countries and yet smoking is the single largest preventable cause of death.

The Tobacco epidemic is said to be a major threat to the economy and social development of our country.

The GATS survey also found that 80% of Kenyans strongly support the increase of tobacco taxes which is expected to deter initiation of smoking particularly by young people; motivate smokers to quit and prevent former smokers from relapsing.

The health workers were also urged to provide supportive counselling, “I am appealing to all health workers to ask on tobacco intake of patients/clients and provide guidance.”

Currently, counselling from health worker stands at a low of 34%.This is aimed at supporting 77% of smokers who expressed the need to quit smoking and those who had attempted to quit smoking.

Global evidence also showed that graphic health warning are much more effective at encouraging smokers to quit and as a result.

The ministry of health will in the next one month put this into force as well as direct the Tobacco Control Unit to initiate the implementation of standardized packaging.

The Director of Medical Services also appealed to all partners, media being one, to support the government in translating the findings of the survey into strategic actions .

According to Nathan Bakyaita, “We either win or they lose.”