Tobacco farmers in the country have been urged to shift to other healthier alternatives for their own health and that of the nation.
The Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance-Kenya Vice Chairperson, Mr. David Mukami, disclosed that tobacco kills over 9,000 Kenyans every year, as this is according to the Ministry of Health.
“These deaths come from diseases such as cancer, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs),” said Mukami.
Speaking in Nairobi on Monday, Mukami said that supporting tobacco farming directly contributes to promoting an industry that thrives on addiction and ultimately causes immense suffering and the loss of lives.
He also noted that tobacco farming may seem very profitable in the short term, but its long-term economic implications are dire as farmers are exposed to health challenges because their health is compromised as a result of handling tobacco leaves.
“Tobacco farming also has a negative effect on food insecurity and poor nutrition since the farmers do not produce sufficient food crops. Redirecting resources from tobacco farming to sustainable and healthier alternatives can lead to a more resilient and diversified economy,” he said.
“Tobacco cultivation places a significant strain on the environment through deforestation, excessive water consumption, and chemical usage. This not only depletes natural resources but also contributes to climate change,” Mukami added.
Trade Catalyst Africa (TCA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Duncan Onyango said that there is a need to halt support for tobacco farming and the urgency of controlling tobacco use due to its severe health implications, particularly its association with cancer, diabetes, and other chronic heart conditions.
“Responsible choices must be made to safeguard public health, sustainable agriculture, and economic growth. It is our responsibility as a nation to prioritise the health and well-being of our citizens over short-term gains,” said Onyango.
“Over the years, Kenya has made great strides in controlling the tobacco epidemic in Africa and the world. The efforts made by the country in tobacco control have had a significant impact on the reduction of tobacco use, which should not be reversed,” he added.
Onyango said that the Kenya TCA is an important piece of legislation that is designed to protect public health in Kenya as it helps to ensure that government decisions are made in the best interest of the Kenyan people rather than the tobacco industry, as he insisted that the government must make an effort to end tobacco farming and use in Kenya.
International Institute for Legislative Affair Vice Chair Cristine Mugo stated on her side that it is unfortunate that the young people are lured into tobacco use by the introduction of products like oral nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and vapes that British American Tobacco is bringing into the country and introducing the youths to modern addiction and are bound to destroy generations.
“Kenya has a unique opportunity to promote alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers by transitioning them to sustainable and healthier forms of agriculture, as this will help in the nation’s commitment to sustainable development and the government’s initiatives to combat climate change,” she added.