The Kenyan government on Thursday pledged to enforce legislation to ban advertising and promotion of tobacco related products in order to halt the rising toll of deaths associated with smoking.
Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia said Kenya will not relent in the fight against smoking as the east African nation grapples with a heavy toll of non communicable disease associated with the vice.
"Evidence shows that advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans lead to reduction in the number of smokers. This is also one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce demand for tobacco," said the Cabinet Secretary during the World No Tobacco Day.
The 2013 World No Tobacco Day urged action on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco related products. Tobacco consumption in Kenya has surged in the light of urbanization and changing lifestyles.
"In Kenya, 18 percent of men and about 2 percent of women in the reproductive age consume tobacco. Of growing concern is the increased use of water pipes/shisha among the youth in entertainment venues," said the cabinet secretary for health.
He noted that Kenya is currently grappling with a rising burden of non-communicable diseases like cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases due to increased tobacco consumption as well as exposure to second hand tobacco smoke.
"This vice must therefore be fought with all the available weapons in the form of provisions of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control, its protocols and implementation guidelines," said Macharia.
Kenya is among the 178 countries that have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
"At the national level, scientific evidence, legislations, regulations, policies and guidelines are the tools we have developed to ensure domestication of the FCTC for effective implementation," revealed the cabinet secretary for health
Kenya is among leading African nations that have developed a national legislation to regulate tobacco consumption.
According to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, the tobacco control act enacted in 2007 placed a ban on public smoking alongside tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
"My ministry is committed to ensure that regular and continuous capacity building on the implementation of the Tobacco control act takes place at all levels. We will strengthen enforcement and ensure that available legal avenues are used in situations where the act is not adhered to," Macharia said.
He urged the Treasury to impose punitive measures like heavy taxation on tobacco related products to make them less affordable to smokers.
Kenya has domesticated Article 13 of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control to enforce a ban on advertising and promotion of these products.
Chairman of the Tobacco Control Board Peter Odhiambo revealed that tobacco advertising is negligible in Kenya as the industry complies with legislation to ban this practice.
"We applaud the positive role of the media in the enforcement of legislation to ban tobacco advertising. Stakeholders should channel greater efforts to fight tobacco advertising at the county level," Odhiambo said.
Countries should establish effective laws and policies to combat tobacco consumption.
The WHO country representative in Kenya, Custodia Mandhlate, urged the government to roll out measures that discourage smoking to minimize high death rate in the productive segment of the population.
"Smoking has grave economic, health and environmental consequences and the government should utilize legal and policy tools to combat the consumption of tobacco related products," Mandlhate said.