Health CS Mutahi Kagwe warns on the dangers of tobacco


Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe says tobacco, which is a major risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases, account for over 50 per cent of hospital admissions in the country.

The CS noted that the cardio-vascular diseases include high blood pressure, stroke and chronic respiratory diseases such as Asthma.

According to the health CS, tobacco is also a risk factor for cancer of the lungs, throat, mouth, skin – as well as kidney diseases among many other debilitating health conditions.

Kagwe made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by Dr. Ephantus Maree from the Ministry of health during the launch of Tobacco free farms project in Migori town. The project which is an initiative of the WHO, WFP and FAO aims at offering alternative farming crops to tobacco farmers.

“In addition, tobacco is associated with reproductive problems such as infertility, impotence, miscarriages and reduction in libido, sudden infant death and in particular among tobacco farmers persistent skin conditions and green-leaf disease,” added the CS.

The CS said every year tobacco kills more than 8 million people, with about one million of these deaths occurring among non- users, including children and women resulting from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. He pointed out that most tobacco-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like Kenya, prematurely (that is below the age of 70 years) among the productive members of the society hence retarding and reversing the social and economic development of affected countries.

Kagwe noted that tobacco contains Nicotine which is a highly addictive making tobacco users dependent on products that deliver more than 7,000 poisonous chemicals found in cigarettes

and other tobacco products. He said these chemicals include cancer causing agents, toxins, flavourings and aromatics which are harmful to human health. The CS noted that the health, socio-economic and environmental harm caused by tobacco production and consumption not only affect individuals, but also families and society at large.

“Indeed, this is a complex menace and must be fought from all fronts. It requires unrelenting efforts from all sectors and a whole of society approach,” he added. Kagwe said the government signed and ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC) in 2004 which has been domesticated by the Tobacco Control Act of 2007.

He further noted that the purpose of the Tobacco Control Act is to protect all Kenyan citizens be they adults, youth, children, smokers and non-smokers as well as tobacco-farmers.

The CS said the Ministry of Health being the steward in the implementation of these two legal frameworks, has established successful collaborations with other sectors and partners to

implement the Tobacco Control Act. “Kenya has adopted the Motto “Towards a Tobacco-free Nation’ as the vision of our national tobacco control efforts,” he added. Kagwe noted that the provisions of the Act have facilitated effective policy interventions to reduce the demand and supply of these poisonous products through a multi-sectoral approach to facilitate a whole-of government integration of tobacco control.

The CS noted that so far, Kenya has made tremendous efforts to implement key demand reduction strategies including ban on smoking in public places to achieve smoke-free air and ban on sale of tobacco products to children among others.