Anti-tobacco lobbyists now warn that industry’s related cancer ailments will demand Sh120 billion up from the current Sh17 billion treatment budget every year by 2020. They are now renewing their call for a total ban on tobacco products and shifting farmers to other income-generating initiatives.
The Movement Against Substance Abuse in Africa (MASAA) and the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA), the Institute for Natural Resources and Technology Studies (INRS) as well as the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA), say time is ripe for the country to adopt alternative agribusiness ventures in tobacco-growing zones.
The say tobacco-related deaths will hit at least 80,000 per year from the current 20,000. This emerged from a stakeholder’s workshop held recently at the Movement Against Substance Abuse in Africa (MASAA) offices at Hurligham in Nairobi. The movement’s Chairman, Dr Peter Gaku, said the deaths will comprise 25 per cent of passive cigarette smokers.
Dr Gaku said passive smoke contains enough lead to cause heart diseases, serious respiratory illnesses, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants.
This metal, he said, has the health risks of inducing at least 25 forms of cancer.
Dr Gaku said whereas WHO specifies that the maximum level of lead allowed in products meant for human consumption is 0.2 parts per million (ppm), laboratory tests confirmed level of lead in local cigarettes ranges between 9.0 and 17.5 ppm.
In the same meeting, the IILA said the government was not doing enough to restrict “free and profitable tobacco trade in the country.”
The institute’s communications and advocacy officer, Ms Clara Mwanthi, urged the government to speed up taxation reforms on tobacco industry to boost public health.
“The government is still sitting on crucial research findings and recommendations from stakeholders. It is yet to initiate a Tobacco Control Fund, which is supposed to implement anti-tobacco programmers,” she said.
The government is required to establish a Sh25 billion fund to be disbursed in five phases to eradicate tobacco farming.
The move targets the approximately 20,000 tobacco farmers in Kenya but could face stiff resistance from processors who have been persistent in arguing that the government must be lenient on taxation and control measures.
According to INRS coordinator, Mr Samuel Agonda, tobacco farming communities need Sh5 billion per year to set up alternative agribusinesses.