Study confirms that Kenyan tobacco users want stronger health warnings on tobacco products

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Study confirms that Kenyan tobacco users want stronger health warnings on tobacco products

For release on December 14 2330h (EST); December 15 0730h (EAT)
Kenyan tobacco users want more information on tobacco packages to become better informed about the harms of tobacco use, according to a report released today in Nairobi, Kenya by an international research team at the Kenya Ministry of Health, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs, the University of Nairobi, and the University of Waterloo.

Unfortunately, regulations tabled by the Ministry of Health in 2014 to strengthen health warnings in Kenya by requiring pictorial health warnings on packs are currently under legal dispute by British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya Limited.

The report presents the findings of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (the ITC Project) in Kenya. Approximately 1,500 tobacco users and 600 non-users were surveyed from October – December 2012 to identify strengths and weaknesses in Kenya’s efforts to protect the public from the harms of tobacco.
Kenya is a Party to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global health treaty that has been ratified by 180 countries. As a Party to the FCTC since 2004, Kenya is obligated to implement strong national policies to control the threat of a tobacco epidemic, including large pictorial health warnings, bans on smoking in public places and tobacco advertising, and increases in tobacco taxes and prices.
The ITC Project, centered at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has since 2002 conducted large-scale studies to assess the impact of FCTC policies. In all, ITC impact assessment studies have been conducted in 23 countries, covering over half of the world’s population and over two-thirds of the world’s tobacco users.
The ITC Kenya Survey found that the majority of Kenyan tobacco users want stronger warnings on packs. About two-thirds (63%) of tobacco users and 90% of non-users thought there should be more health information on cigarette packages.

Smokers in Kenya are falling behind other countries in understanding that smoking leads to debilitating health effects, such as heart disease and stroke. Only two-thirds of male smokers were aware that smoking causes heart disease – the second-lowest of 14 countries in the ITC Project, higher only than China. Less than half (47%) of male smokers believed that smoking causes stroke – the second-lowest percentage out of 20 ITC countries, higher only than China. The study found that less than half of smokeless users (38%) were aware that smokeless tobacco causes mouth cancer and gum disease, suggesting that the current text warnings on smokeless packages about mouth cancer and gum disease are weak.

Stronger tobacco control regulations were tabled by the Ministry of Health in 2014 to introduce pictorial health warnings, bans on smoking in cars and streets near public places, and measures to prevent the tobacco industry from interfering with the implementation of new laws. The 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations were set to come into force on June 5, 2014. However, BAT challenged the regulations in court before they came into force and the regulations are now suspended pending a court hearing.
Kenya has had the same text warnings on 30% of the front and 50% of the back of smoked and smokeless tobacco products since 2007. The 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations proposed 15 new pictorial warnings on both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, with no change in size.

Professor Geoffrey T. Fong of the University of Waterloo in Canada, Chief Principal Investigator of the ITC Project said “ITC Kenya data showing the low impact of the current text warnings and gaps in awareness of important tobacco-related health effects confirm the urgent need for Kenya to implement large, pictorial warnings”.
“Our studies in Mauritius show that switching from small text warnings to large pictorial health warnings significantly improves the effectiveness of the warnings. But their effectiveness decreases over time as smokers become overexposed to the same messages. Tobacco users in Kenya have had the same text warnings for 8 years – new pictorial warnings are long overdue”, Dr. Fong said.
Africa has become the focus for tobacco company marketing efforts as rates of smoking have declined in developed countries. It is estimated that smoking prevalence in Africa will increase from 6% to 22.8% by 2020 if no further policy action is taken.

The ITC Kenya Project was led by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Waterloo in Canada and conducted by the University of Nairobi, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, and the Ministry of Health.

The ITC Kenya Wave 1 National Report can be downloaded at www.itcproject.org.

The International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project)

The evidence presented in the report is based on findings from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project), the first-ever international cohort study to evaluate the psychosocial and behavioural effects of tobacco control policies and the only research project that focuses on measuring the impact of key policies of the WHO FCTC. The ITC Project conducts surveys of smokers and non-smokers in Kenya and 22 other countries. ITC Kenya Wave 1 Survey data was collected in 2012 from approximately 1,500 adult smokers and 600 non-smokers in 21 districts of 8 provinces. Findings from the ITC Kenya Survey and other ITC countries can provide policy-makers with a roadmap to guide the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive tobacco control law.

By | 2018-03-16T16:03:26+00:00 December 15th, 2015|Press release, Public Health, Tobacco Control|0 Comments

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