Today we join our hands to embark on a journey to fix a city that has badly been broken down, to a cleaner, greener, healthier and wealthier city.” Gov. Mike Sonko’s inaugural speech was apt. It spoke to the Nairobi resident who is fed up with open sewers, uncollected garbage, and criminal gangs.
Because part of holding leaders accountable to their promises is a civic duty that we must uphold, Gov. Sonko now has received a letter from a lover of Nairobi city. It reads in part;
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”According to WHO, tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death. In Kenya, tobacco related deaths are estimated to be over 30,000 annually, while more than 200,000 children are exposed to tobacco use and smoke daily.”
Describing the health challenges, WHO describes tobacco use as the ‘biggest public health threats the world has ever faced’.
The letter to Nairobi governor raises concerns with the tobacco control laws and by-laws stating that they are not implemented or even enforced, ”leading to high exposure to Second-Hand Smoke, which according to research increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancers and heart diseases.”
Lack of enforcement of those laws is one thing. The other side of the coin is a tobacco industry that is relentless in its pursuit to make a profit at whatever cost. I would be forgiven for believing that the gamble with rising taxation and thousands of deaths to a commodity is not worth the effort. This notion is wrong. The tobacco industry is big, it is making huge profits and the sales are on an upward trend.
The call by the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance to have a smoke free Nairobi is well within its mandate.
These are their demands;
- Nairobians unequivocally declared that it is possible to have a Smoke-Free Nairobi with support from your leadership.
- The pre-existing laws are sufficient to make Nairobi Smoke-Free. The only thing required is your commitment to implement and enforce the laws as required.
- The current “Smoking Zones” are hazardous and not in compliance with the law thus making it hard for Nairobi to attain a Smoke-Free status.
Beware ”Cigargate” is ours
Investigations are underway in the UK following claims that BAT bribed government officials, MP’s and officials working in rival companies in a well-organized syndicate that was aimed at stifling anti-smoking laws as well as collection intelligence from their competitors.
The allure of economic gains, best emulated by the Chinese government which controls the tobacco industry and makes huge profits, epitomises greed breeding death. What do you say about a country where one million people die every year to tobacco-related illnesses and still, business thrives?
There is no doubt that the tobacco industry is powerful and often fearless. After all, it churns profits bigger than the national budgets of some countries. It has survived by sheer manipulation, intimidation, often gambling with the lives of those who consume their products.
Let’s Flip the Coin.
If the governor wanted, if the Kenyan leadership was committed, it is possible to go hard on both the manufactures and the consumers. There is a precedence. Finland was the first country to set a goal to eradicate smokers. And it is well on its way there. Already, smoking at work has been since banned 1995. Smoking in bars and restaurants was banned in 2007.
It is often said that numbers do not lie.
79 men die in Kenya every week from tobacco-related illnesses.