Tobacco Use among Youths in Kenya

Tobacco remains one of the most lethal demons slowly but surely ravaging the health of youths in Kenya and beyond. The epitome of it all is the ignorance camouflaged with transitioning from youth to adulthood where most teens and post-teens imagine “it is our time to do it.” The mantra continues to send the poor souls to grave or state of desperation leading to utter addiction and most of the time ill-health. R. J Reynold (world’s second-best Tobacco Company) once said “We don’t smoke that s…We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid.”  At this juncture, the young are the focus since they determine tomorrow’s state of affairs whether sorry or prosperous.

Drawing inspiration from the most dreadful mistake (smoking) that Barack Obama made in his teenage, I am sure Kenyan youths aspiring to such a level of success would not make it. The former American president candidly confessed his struggle with addiction that put him on the verge of losing his wife just before he QUIT and WON. A recent poll by the CDC revealed that nine out of ten smokers begin smoking just before age eighteen and 99% do so by age 26. This implies that Kenyans between ages 13-26 require more guidance and sensitization to realize that their ignorance is the Tobacco industry’s source of wealth and the ultimate ticket to their premature deaths. There is more need to reinforce, monitor, and keep the fire on the Tobacco Control Act burning in Kenya today than ever!

It would amount to injustice if we don’t recognize the Ministry of Education’s effort to incorporate the topic of Drug and Substance abuse at the primary level. The concern is, with the alluring game of the Tobacco industry and reluctance in adequate anti-tobacco emphasis, this country continues to lose its most treasured assets to tobacco consequences. Tobacco products are strategically grouped into smoked tobacco products and smokeless with respect to affordability and peer pressure influence to allure the young and stupid. Amongst the smoked tobacco products include; Manufactured cigarette, Roll-Your-Own Cigarette, shisha, cigars, Electronic cigar rates (e-cigarettes) – these are the trending tobacco products of all times revolving around electronic vaping devices/ electronic nicotine delivery systems (Lyte) meant to prompt and substitute the traditional smoking.

Smokeless tobacco on the other hand includes: Chewing tobacco, dry snuff that comes in powder form, moist snuff – ground tobacco put in the mouth between the cheeks and the gums, and dissolvable smokeless tobacco – contain numerous added constituents that dissolve in the mouth to later deliver nicotine through mucosal absorption.

Tobacco possesses several health risks amongst its users hence robbing the nation of its future leaders and game-changers. First and foremost, youths using tobacco are more susceptible to pre-mature deaths compared to non-users. The effects of smoking go beyond the users’ risks as non-smokers but yet exposed are equally at the risk of second-hand smoker consequences. Secondly, nicotine is greatly addictive and could lead to crime and reckless behaviors as youths try to satisfy their addiction urge (Viklund, 2018). Thirdly the use of tobacco greatly stimulates the development of cardiovascular complications such as stroke as well as respiratory complications. Tobacco use harms nearly every body part as it is associated with arthritis, bone complications, diabetes which statistically records between 30-40 % prevalence rates among the users. Behind the caution, this product is harmful to your health, lies reproductive health risks e.g. ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and infertility. Besides, in the WHO publication “Towards Tobacco-Free Young People in the African Region” young tobacco users develop bad skin and breadth, risk of injury associated with poor healing periods, increased illness, addiction, and compromised physical performance.

In conclusion, tobacco use greatly compromises the health status of youths with the trending vape products only acting as a moderated form of delivering nicotine flavorings as well as other toxic chemicals to the lungs in vapor form as opposed to the traditional smoke (Onchonga, 2019). It is indeed sad that the youths rot and fall prey to these cheap manipulations because of their lack of knowledge. According to the WHO FTCT, there is a dire need to hedge the chances and greatly condone tobacco consumption through a unified tax system in Kenya that would ultimately reduce the affordability of the products. Consequently, partnerships with key stakeholders of tobacco product distribution channels must be hedged and together youths must lift each other to “commit to quit.” There are only three options, the first one is to commit to quit. The second one is the affirmative take to increase tax (Blecher, 2018). A tax increase of a further 15% is ideal for reducing tobacco products affordability. The last and grievous option is to frustrate the anti-tobacco advocacy amongst the youths. Together, we stand to create an enabling environment (vehement tobacco cessation advocacy) for youths to strive and live longer while also reinforcing both the Tobacco Control Act and WHO FTCT.

Magana Magdaline

Student-University of Nairobi

B.Com- Supply Chain Management & Procurement

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