According to most people who smoke, smoking is quite an easy habit to start but stopping is not as easy. Their testimonies revealed that they only stopped when the habit threatened their comfort zone, health or relationships. In an interview with Afromum, one woman told of her journey to stop smoking. Anne said that when she came to Nairobi over twenty years ago, she loved on the fast lane. She enjoyed life and was to have it all.
“There is nothing that I have not tried smoking, shisha, alcohol and other manner of drugs. The only thing that I could not engage in was prostitution,” she revealed. As the years passed by, Anne continued to smoke and just as with any other person she would soon get a family of her own. A rueful Anne said that at this point, no one would convince her to stop smoking, not even the gory pictures that sometimes accompany warnings in hospitals. She was not afraid of the effects of smoking such as skin cancer, lung cancer, tooth decay, reduces blood flow, weak bones either.
Her turning point came when her children started growing up and were old enough to know all about cigarettes. They had started to ask questions about her habit and would even want to try them out whenever they saw her smoking cigarettes. This was certainly a wakeup call for her and she was now aware of what she had exposed her children to over the years.
“I thought of my children and decided to stop smoking. I did not want them to get harmed by the cigarettes or acquire the bad,” said Anne. Her love for children also made her think about other people’s children. She has since become the ambassador for the stop smoking campaign.
Hers is not a paid endeavor, she does it every day. For instance, we found her loudly and boldly giving her testimony to a big crowd of people that had gathered at the Archives building along Tom Mboya Street. The crowd had gathered in response to a campaign by the Ministry of Health dubbed Graphics Health Warning Exhibition 2017.
The campaign featured different entertainers, trainers, medical personnel and people who also quit smoking. Anne said that she was just passing by and got attracted by the crowd and decided to give her testimony as well, urging people to stop the habit that would wreck havoc on their health, causing them to spend millions on treatment.
According to Anne Kendagor, an official at the Ministry of Health, the Graphics Health Warning Exhibition 2017 was an elaborate campaign to help urge the masses to stop the warning.
“We won the case to print pictorial health warnings on packets of cigarettes. This is to help people know the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Through this campaign, we have been able to reach 500 people who want to quit smoking. We have taken their contacts and will do a follow up with the people who want to stop the habit,” revealed Kendagor
British American Tobacco filed an appeal seeking nine months to implement health warnings contained in the 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations, which were effected September last year.
According to their claim, would cost about Sh93 million in one financial year to print the prescribed health warnings in order to comply with the regulations.
However, Court of Appeal judge David Azangla dismissed the case after state counsel Mohamed Adow successfully argued that BAT had already complied with the regulations as cigarette packets with graphic warnings are already in the market.
Kendagor was also categorical that the campaign was not limited to cigarettes but also included shisha which has taken the Kenyan scene by storm. Shisha is mainly found in clubs and most preferred by young women. People think that the effects of shisha are not as bad as those of cigarettes. This is, however, not true as shisha smoke is filtered through water so it filters harmful agents.
Other myths that have been advanced so far include shisha smoke does not burn lungs so it is not unhealthy and that it is not as addictive as cigarettes because it does not entail nicotine. All these are wrong perceptions as shisha has a number of negative effects that include increased heart rate, increase blood pressure, carbon monoxide poisoning, and lower exercise capacity. Others are lung cancer, heart diseases, oesophageal cancer, heart and neck cancers, reduce lung function and chronic bronchitis among others.
The Ministry of Health has vowed to take a more proactive approach to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use by the formulation and dissemination of policies and guidelines on tobacco control. Additionally, there will be capacity building of stakeholder on tobacco control, awareness on the effects of tobacco use, implanting tobacco laws and coordination as well as collaboration with relevant stakeholders at national and county level.