Kenya Commemorates The 12th World No-Tobacco Day As Global Tobacco Survey Report Is Launched 31 May 2003
World No Tobacco Day 2003 whose theme is "Tobacco Free Film. Tobacco Free Fashion. Action ", was nationally commemorated on 31 May 2003 in Nakuru District, Rift Valley Province.
The Director of Medical Services, Dr. Richard Muga, represented the Chief Guest, Hon. Charity Ngilu, Minister for Health.
A procession took place from Nakuru Railway station through the town to Nyayo Gardens, the venue for the ceremony. Guests and a crowd of approximately 1,500 people were entertained through songs, school choirs, dance, drama and puppetry featuring messages on this year's theme and tobacco in general.
The Minister for Health in her address re-iterated that tobacco in all its forms damages our health, economy and society at large. She pointed out that tobacco is responsible for deaths of one in every ten adults worldwide. She decried the deceptive strategies for the marketing of tobacco products designed to lure the youth into the trap of addiction. Honourable Charity Ngilu said that "stuffing ourselves with the poisons and irritants in tobacco is not cool", as "tobacco kills half of those who use it". This can certainly not be "cool".
She was concerned that the tobacco industry had created the false impression that smoking was fashionable, and that only the young, beautiful and successful people did it. Since children watch their "heroes" smoking on Television and film, they want to copy them without knowing the dangers and addictive power of tobacco. She also pointed out that sponsorship of primary school competitions like the annual drama festivals by tobacco companies was inappropriate and urged schools not to accept money earned through tobacco promotion. She called upon the industry to desist promoting tobacco through deceptive means.
The Minister confirmed that the Kenya Government would ratify the Tobacco Treaty adopted by 192 WHO Member States at the 56th Session of the World Health Assembly of May 2003. She issued a policy statement that, and we quote: "From to-day smoking in all public places is prohibited. Smoking will not be allowed in public vehicles, cinema halls, schools, work places, restaurants and anywhere else where members of the public are enjoying fresh air" end of quote. We can no longer allow this public health hazard, she said.
She called upon everybody to act as the avenue through which correct information on the dangers posed by tobacco reaches all Kenyans.
The Director of Medical Services, Dr. Richard Muga later on behalf of the Hon. Minister, launched the Global Tobacco Youth Survey - Kenya Report. He sadly noted that about 13% (0r 400,000) school going children countrywide smoked cigarettes, a habit which some of them started as early as at the tender age of seven years. The report also showed that 30% (one and a half million children) were exposed to tobacco smoke in their homes. He appealed to the press to disseminate facts on dangers of tobacco use so as to save the future generations from the epidemic.
In his remarks the WHO Representative to Kenya, Dr. Peter Eriki, lamented that tobacco killed nearly five million people world-wide last year through tobacco related diseases. These deaths are preventable. He pointed out that if no appropriate interventions were taken, the annual deaths from smoking tobacco would reach ten million by the year 2020, with more than 70% of victims being from the developing world, as these countries are prime targets for the tobacco companies.
He congratulated the Ministers of Health present at the 56th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, for unanimously agreeing on a common stand against tobacco. Since treaties on their own may not achieve much, Dr. Eriki said, Governments are therefore, urged to ratify this particular treaty and translate it into action to suit their national scenario. He therefore hailed the Kenya Government on the banning of smoking in Government buildings. The national carrier the Kenya Airways was congratulated too, for declaring their aircraft smoke-free on both domestic and international flights. He furthermore appreciated the government's recognition of the importance of tobacco free sports as evidenced by declaring the 1st Africa Military Games that were held in Kenya in April 2002 smoke free.
The WHO Representative, however, cautioned that a lot still needed to be done as revealed by the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GTYS) - Kenya Report that was launched during the occasion. The GYTS Kenya study conducted by the Ministries of Health and Education, with support from WHO, showed that up to 80% of both boys and girls had seen pro-tobacco messages in newspapers and magazines, and that 50% of the current smokers and 20% of the newer smokers had objects such as T/shirts, caps, biros, etc, with a cigarette logo on them. The study also showed that 25% of the smokers thought that boys and girls who smoked looked more attractive.
He called upon the Government, NGOs and civil society to tirelessly join efforts in creating a genuine tobacco free environment for the populations and the youth in particular. The ratification of the treaty on the Tobacco Control by WHO Member States, Kenya included, will be an invaluable legislative springboard for tobacco control worldwide.
Addressing the gathering, Prof. Peter Odhiambo Chairman of Kenya's National Tobacco Free Initiative Committee pointed out that human behaviour was greatly influenced by observed activities from others. He appealed to both the film and fashion industries to desist from highlighting smoking as a catch in their programmes. He also called on relevant censor boards to take appropriate steps to control the industries from exposing the youth, especially, to the temptations of tobacco consumption in any form.
His Worship the Mayor of Nakuru Town Mr. Wachira Njoru noted that medical science had proved that tobacco smoking was associated with major respiratory diseases. He appealed to the youth to safeguard themselves from such diseases.
The Provincial Director of Education represented by Mr. Victor Siele Tole, enumerated to the students some of the effects of tobacco. He stressed that tobacco smoking was a health hazard that needed elimination as it leads to poor health, poor performance of work and addiction that may lead to stealing.
Other dignitaries present at the occasion included the Nakuru District Commissioner, Mr. Patrick Oreta, the Director of Mental Health, Dr. David Kiima, Head, Division of Non-Communicable Diseases, Dr. Ahamed Ogwel, Rift Valley Provincial Medical Officer, Dr. Chesang and Head, Division of Child Health, Dr. Annah Wamae.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Peter Eriki
WHO Representative to Kenya
4th Floor ACK Garden House, 1st Ngong Avenue, off Bishops Road
P.O. Box 45335, NAIROBI
Tel: (254-20) 271 7902/8255/8749/8024
Fax: (254-20) 2714191/2