A Kenyan anti-tobacco alliance has called on the government to hasten programs aimed at reducing rising cancer cases in the country.
Joel Gitali, chairman of Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, said that the government should not license nicotine products that are increasingly threatening lives of people.
“Nicotine-based products such as nicotine pouch should not be licensed in the country as it does not promote smoking cessation and reduction of cancer cases,” Gitali told journalists in Nairobi.
“We need not rush to license these products and we must subject them to the existing policies that have proven effective in reducing tobacco use, including plain packaging and bans on flavorings,” Gitali added.
Alfred Karagu, acting CEO of National Cancer Institute of Kenya, said that cancer cases have been in an upward trend in the past few months.
Karagu revealed that cancer kills a total of 33,000 Kenyans every year, adding that esophageal cancer is the leading killer.
“Some 4,380 people are diagnosed with esophageal cancer annually, and at least 4,351 die every year with only 29 survivals,” Karagu added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019 released last week warns of the possibility of tobacco industry interfering in tobacco cessation efforts through misinformation.
“There are real concerns about the risk these products pose to non-smokers who start to use them, especially young people. Unlike the tried and tested nicotine and non-nicotine pharmacotherapies that are known to help people quit tobacco use, we do not endorse e-cigarettes as cessation aids,” says the report.
“Over the years, Kenya has made important steps in reducing the burden of cancer, by helping thousands of people quit tobacco and other nicotine-based products that cause harm,” Gitali said.
The chairman noted that cigarette smoking is an important risk factor for esophageal cancer, and is the most important preventable cause of many cancers and cardiovascular diseases overall.