The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) is urging the Ministry of Health to operationalise the Tobacco Control Fund and add two new non-nicotine tobacco cessation medicines to Kenya’s 2022 essential medicines list.
KETCA is also calling upon the government to hasten measures to control the use of harmful tobacco substances in Kenya, including the nicotine pouches that are being sold as quitting agents.
“Regulations to the Kenya Tobacco Control Act require tobacco companies to pay an annual fee into a designated tobacco control fund to assist the government in paying for the health burdens of tobacco use,” KETCA notes.
KETCA National Chairman Joel Gitali in addition says that 2.5 million Kenyan smokers are directly at risk of lung cancer, which is principally caused by tobacco use.
“Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In countries such as the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80 per cent to 90 per cent of lung cancer deaths. Cases of lung cancer are also rising in Kenya, and are mostly attributed to tobacco use,” he says.
“There is no safe level of tobacco use. We urge Kenyans who use any type of tobacco or nicotine products to quit. This is because research has shown people who quit smoking, have considerable gains in life expectancy compared with those who continue to smoke. Also, if you have been diagnosed with cancer, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of death,” Gitali adds.
According to the National Strategic Plan for Prevention and Control of NCDs 21-2026, 2.5 million Kenyans are currently using tobacco.
This is through diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and other complications caused by tobacco use.
According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use also causes cancer of the larynx (voice box), mouth, oesophagus, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, liver, stomach, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukaemia.
Currently, the cancer burden in Kenya is growing, with about 47,000 new cases and 33,000 deaths annually.
According to the Kenya Cancer Control Strategy, cancer cases in Kenya are expected to rise by 70 per cent over the next two decades.
“Current evidence indicates that between 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including avoiding tobacco products, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly and addressing infection-related risk factors,” the strategy says.