World No Tobacco Day: Tobacco And Heart Disease

Marked annually on 31st May, this year’s World No Tobacco Day is focusing on Tobacco and Heart Disease.

According to the World Health Organisation, “The campaign will increase awareness on the link between tobacco and heart and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including stroke, which combined are the world’s leading causes of death; feasible actions and measures that key audiences, including governments and the public, can take to reduce the risks to heart health posed by tobacco”.

These statistics from WHO are worrying:

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide, and tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12% of all heart disease deaths. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.

The global tobacco epidemic kills more than 7 million people each year, of which close to 900,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.

WHO has come up with what they are calling The WHO MPOWER measures which can be used by governments to reduce tobacco use. These measures include:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies;
  • Protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke by creating completely smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport;
  • Offer help to quit tobacco (cost-covered, population-wide support, including brief advice by health care providers and national toll-free quit lines);
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco by implementing plain/standardized packaging, and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packages, and implementing effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure.
  • Enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and
  • Raise taxes on tobacco products and make them less affordable.

Kenya’s Tobacco Regulations include graphic health warnings and ingredient disclosure on the packs, prohibits virtually all forms of advertising and promotion of tobacco products including some restrictions on tobacco sponsorship and the publicity of such sponsorship and smoke-free environments in streets, walkways and verandas adjacent to public places. Smoking Zones where people can smoke freely are available around the city. In December of 2017, the Health Minister placed a ban on Shisha. “No person shall import, manufacture, sell, offer for sale, use, advertise, promote, facilitate or encourage shisha smoking in Kenya,” said the notice by Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu. Shisha also known as hookah, is a single- or multi-stemmed instrument for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco, whose vapor or smoke is passed through a water basin—often glass-based—before inhalation.

Despite these regulations and bans, tobacco smoking and consumption is still prevalent in Kenya among people of all ages and genders, in form of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Also in danger are those who inhale second hand smoke.

Smokers are aware of the dangers caused by smoking. They need the society’s help in terms of counseling and a level of understanding to get them to quit the highly addictive habit. More pictorial adverts are needed to show the harm smoking causes. Enforcement of the tobacco regulations also needs to be to be stepped especially in regards to sale of cigarettes near schools and the sale of single cigarette sticks which makes it easier for children to afford the harmful habit.