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New Poll: Kenyans Express Overwhelming Support for Tobacco Control Measures

Large Majority Do Not Believe Government and Parliament are Doing Enough
August 07, 2007

Nairobi, Kenya - A new national opinion poll of over 2,000 Kenyans reveals broad support for measures to reduce smoking and to protect all Kenyans from the harms of secondhand smoke. The poll, conducted by the Steadman Group for the Institute of Legislative Affairs (ILA) and Ministry of Health, also shows that Parliament is widely viewed as not taking appropriate action to address tobacco use in Kenya.

The poll was released just as the Kenyan Parliament was set once again to deliberate over the Tobacco Control Bill, a draft law designed to protect the public from the hazardous effects of tobacco and its products.

'The scientific evidence has always been clear that tobacco kills. It is ruining the health of our people and is bad for our economy,' said Director of Medical Services, Dr James Nyikal. 'In the poll released today, the people have spoken; they want Parliament to act now.'

The poll showed overwhelming support for three key measures to reduce smoking: smoke-free public places and workplaces; strong and visible warnings on tobacco products; and, a comprehensive advertising ban covering all tobacco products. Support was strongest for prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces. Fully, 95 percent of Kenyans support this measure, including 79 percent who 'strongly support' it. Nearly all Kenyans believe breathing secondhand smoke is either 'very' (81%) or 'somewhat' (13%) harmful. The poll also showed strong support for strong warning labels. Ninety-four percent (74% strongly; 20% somewhat) of respondents said they supported strong and visible warning messages about the health harms caused by tobacco on tobacco products and advertisements. More than half also strongly agree (rating of 9 or higher on a 10-point scale) that there is a need for additional measures to protect young people from tobacco, such as laws that prohibit cigarette companies from sponsoring sports, music, and drama events.

These findings reflect Kenyans' strong concern about tobacco use. Ninety-one percent said they are concerned about tobacco use by young people in Kenya, including 80 percent who are 'very concerned' Eighty-three percent expressed concern about tobacco use in general.

Almost 70% percent of Kenyans said the government is not doing enough to protect people from secondhand smoke or to help smokers who would like to quit. Sixty percent also believe the government is not doing enough to prevent young people from using tobacco. Only 30 percent believe Members of Parliament are committed to addressing tobacco use among young people. Just 28 percent said Members of Parliament are committed to protecting non-smokers from secondhand smoke.

'The Parliament clearly needs to catch up with the public and do what it takes to protect people from secondhand smoke,' said Dr Ahmed Ogwell the Regional Coordinator for Africa of Framework Convention Alliance (FCA). 'Countries and jurisdictions around the world – as well as local authorities right here in Kenya – are acting to protect their citizens from the proven harms of secondhand smoke. Parliament must act now to protect Kenyans from these unacceptable health risks. The perennial lack of quorum that we see whenever this Bill comes up for debate smells of a conspiracy. A conspiracy against the health of the people of Kenya.'

Secondhand tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. Health and scientific authorities around the world have concluded that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease, impotence and serious respiratory illnesses among adults and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children.

'This process has taken too long. I urge MPs to finish the work and pass this Bill before they go on recess' said Rachel Kitonyo, the Executive Director of Institute for Legislative Affairs. 'They should also resist attempts by the tobacco industry to interfere with this process.'

A point to remember is that in Kenya, 12,000 people die prematurely each year from illnesses related to tobacco use and exposure. This is unnecessary loss of life and the enactment of the Tobacco Control Bill 2007 is a good beginning.

The full report on the poll is available at the Ministry of Health and ILA. The national sample of 2021 adult (18+) respondents was selected from 53 districts across the 8 provinces in Kenya. Districts were selected to provide for a fair representation of the views within the provinces. The results can be projected to the national population. The survey was conducted by the Steadman Group between 14th – 26th March 2007. The full results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.