The African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action wants the Minimum Legal Access age for Tobacco and tobacco flavoured products raised to 21 years.
In a petition to the Senate and the National Assembly, the NGO says that raising the minimum legal access age to tobacco and tobacco flavoured products will prevent tobacco companies who take advantage of the teenagers and young adults’ susceptibility to pressure resulting from targeted advertising.
They say that this will in effect prevent the companies from deliberately marketing tobacco products to teenagers and young adults in order to recruit additional smokers and boost incomes of tobacco companies.
In the statement, the Non Governmental Organisation Executive Chairman Mwangi Macharia says that although at 18 years, an individual is perceived to possess the necessary intellectual skills to make informed choices about smoking, research shows that they may lack the social and emotional maturity to control impulses, resist peer pressure and fully appreciate the risk involved with cigarette use.
“Increasing the minimum legal age of access to tobacco and tobacco flavoured products to 21 years will lower the possibility that a primary or secondary school student will be in a position to legally purchase tobacco and tobacco flavoured products for other learners and underage peers,” says Macharia.
The Executive Chairman argues that, an increase in the minimum legal age to tobacco sales and access will help delay smoking initiation among youth, leading to lower smoking prevalence rates, saving millions of dollars in health care costs as well as significantly increasing not just the length, but also the quality of life, across populations.
The NGO is warning that the key drivers of tobacco use among Kenyan youth is the lack of a reasonable Minimum Legal Sale and Access age.
“Nicotine is very addictive, in addition to the fact that teenagers and young adults are more vulnerable to its impacts since their brains are still in the development stages. Therefore, increasing the minimum legal access to smoking tobacco and tobacco related products can lessen the risk that citizens will be addicted to tobacco,” he said.
He noted that consumption of tobacco can result into immediate adverse health effects such as increased inflammation, increased oxidative stress, impaired immunity, respiratory problems, and addiction to nicotine.
In a petition to both the Senate and the National Assembly Macharia said that while the Tobacco Act of 2007 established the Minimum age of Legal Access to tobacco products at the age of 18 years, less than 50% of the adult smokers attain daily smoking habits before 18 years while approximately 80% become daily smokers before turning 21 years hence the need to raise the access age to 21 years.
The report noted that, studies have shown that tobacco use leads to impaired respiratory system, exacerbation of asthma, dental diseases like periodontitis as well as exacerbating diabetes, cancer of the lung and throat, bone health, and cardio-vascular diseases.
“Increasing the minimum legal access age to tobacco and tobacco flavoured products will lead to immediate health benefits to the population.” Says the report in part.
Adding that: “While tobacco control strategies such as smoke-free laws and tax-induced price increases have proven highly effective, increasing the MLA could be a complementary strategy, and in some cases, may be more politically viable while achieving comparable results.”
The African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action is calling on the legislators to simplify identity checks for retailers to help facilitate compliance efforts.