New Survey Shows Need for Kenya to Take Strong Action to Save Lives from Tobacco Use
Survey finds 2.5 million Kenyans currently use tobacco
Posted by: Editor | Dec 2, 2014
An estimated 2.5 million Kenyans — over 11 percent of the country’s adult population — currently use tobacco, according to the first Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) ever conducted in Kenya. This smoking rate is the highest yet shown by a GATS survey in sub-Saharan Africa, underscoring the need for Kenya to take strong action to reduce tobacco use.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health released the survey results on November 28, highlighting the urgent need for the Kenyan government to fully implement the country’s tobacco control law and address rates of tobacco use that are sure to increase as the tobacco industry sets its sights on Africa.
Key findings of the survey include:
- 11.6 percent of the adult population — including 19.1 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women — currently smoke or use smokeless tobacco.
- Many Kenyans are exposed to secondhand smoke in workplaces and public places. Over 85 percent of adults who visited bars and nightclubs were exposed to tobacco smoke, and about 17 percent of adults who work indoors were exposed to tobacco smoke at their workplaces.
- Almost 93 percent of adults believe smoking causes serious illness, with over 97 percent supporting the law prohibiting smoking in restaurants and just over 80 percent favoring an increase in taxes on tobacco products.
These findings should serve as a wakeup call for Kenya’s government. Kenya’s rates of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke among adults are too high, and too many children are starting to use tobacco. But the good news is a high level of awareness about the dangers of tobacco use and support for the proven policies that reduce tobacco use.
“Tobacco related deaths are entirely preventable,” says Joshua Kyallo, Director of Africa Programs at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Kenyan officials should act now to implement strong graphic health warnings and other life saving measures authorized under the Tobacco Control Act passed in 2007.”
Projections show that if current trends persist, 26 percent of the world’s smokers — 413 million smokers altogether — will live in Africa by 2100. Tobacco companies are increasingly setting their sights on African nations, which they have identified as promising growth markets.
These trends should convince Kenyan officials to fulfill the country’s obligations as a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – the world’s first public health treaty – by implementing policies proven to reduce tobacco use. These include smoke-free workplaces and public places; increased tobacco taxes; bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships; and large, graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging. Implementing these policies will protect Kenyans from the horrible health, social, and economic burdens of tobacco use that will continue to worsen without urgent action.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey is being implemented in low- and middle-income countries to monitor adult tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke and implementation of tobacco control measures.