Council celebrates teenagers who have never seen cigarette adverts

Tobacco is one of the most addictive substances in the world. [iStock]

The Tobacco Control Council celebrates millions of teenagers born after 2007 when Kenya banned cigarette adverts.

The council said the country had come a long way since cigarette advertising was banned in mass media following the passage of the Tobacco Act.

Previously, tobacco companies promoted their products in newspapers, radio, television, online advertisements and billboards, which was a huge expense in the industry.

An international tobacco company sponsored the Safari Rally, which was on the international rally calendar, and tobacco products hosted one through signage in almost every rural market.

“We are proud that our children are no longer bombarded with messages that present tobacco use as elegant, sexy and ideal,” said Dorcas Kiptui, tobacco control officer at the Department of Non-Communicable Diseases of the Ministry of Health.

Ms Kiptui, who represents the ministry on the Tobacco Control Council, recalled how the country has come out of the days when students bought packets of cigarettes as part of the entrance fee to nightclubs which could also occasionally admit high school students.

“There are 4,000 toxins in tobacco that are of no use to the human body,” said Dr Somba Kivungu, who represents the Kenya Medical Association on the board.

Tobacco Council chair Nancy Gachoka said tobacco was one of the most addictive substances in the world and early exposure was the most harmful, plunging entire populations into a drowned pool.

“Not all young people who adopt tobacco use can easily get out of it. The situation is getting worse day by day. It also paves the way for the use of narcotics,” Ms Gachoka said.

The council, however, does not foresee a halt to tobacco growing and processing in the near future, saying the business case still outweighs calls for a complete ban.

The council argues that curing tobacco at the farm level exposed farmers to pollution and consumed large amounts of biomass, draining household incomes and the environment.

But Salome Machua, National Environmental Management Agency representative on the Tobacco Board, said exploring alternatives to on-farm curing, such as requiring processors to install industrial operations, would likely be counterproductive and result in more pollution.

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