Ministry of Health urged to operationalize Tobacco Control Fund
The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) is urging the Ministry of Health to operationalize the Tobacco Control Fund and add two new nicotine-free smoking cessation medicines to Kenya’s Essential Medicines List 2022.
KETCA is also calling on the government to expedite measures to control the use of harmful tobacco substances in Kenya, including nicotine pouches which are sold as withdrawal agents.
According to the alliance, these measures include, but are not limited to, the operationalization of the Tobacco Control Fund.
“Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act regulations require tobacco companies to make an annual contribution to a designated tobacco control fund to help the government defray the health burdens associated with tobacco use,” KETCA notes. .
National Chairman of KETCA, Joel Gitali, further stated that 2.5 million Kenyan smokers are directly at risk of lung cancer, which is mainly caused by tobacco use.
“Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In countries like the United States, smoking is linked to approximately 80-90% of lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer cases are also increasing in Kenya and are mainly attributed to tobacco use,” he says.
“There is no safe level of tobacco consumption. We urge Kenyans who use any type of tobacco or nicotine products to quit. Indeed, research has shown that people who quit smoking have considerable gains in life expectancy compared to those who continue to smoke, and if you have been diagnosed with cancer, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of death,” adds Gitali.
According to the National NCD Prevention and Control Strategic Plan 21-2026, 2.5 million Kenyans currently use tobacco.
Tobacco use is now the leading cause of preventable death in Kenya, killing at least 9,000 Kenyans each year, according to the Ministry of Health.
This goes through diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and other complications caused by tobacco use.
According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use also causes cancer of the larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, kidneys, bladder, pancreas, liver, stomach, colon and rectum and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
Currently, the cancer burden in Kenya is increasing, with approximately 47,000 new cases and 33,000 deaths per year.
According to the Kenya Cancer Control Strategy, cancer cases in Kenya are expected to increase by 70% over the next two decades.
“Current evidence indicates that between 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including avoiding tobacco products, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly and addressing risk factors for infection,” the strategy says.