Non-smokers face equal dangers as tobacco smokers

Murang’a residents have been cautioned to be on the lookout for secondhand smoke because it exposes nonsmokers to the same dangers as smokers.

Speaking to KNA, Murang’a Health Promotion officer Danson Mwangi said people who were exposed to secondary smoke faced equal dangers as people who smoked tobacco and that the severity of the effects is greater for the non-smokers.

“Non-smokers who are constantly exposed to secondary smoke are at risk of contracting tobacco related diseases just like people who smoke tobacco,” Mwangi said.

The health promotion officer explained that the dangers of tobacco smoking could be categorized in terms of effects to an individual and to the nation.

“To an individual, there are many diseases such as cancer, asthma and stroke which result in premature death,” he said adding that smoking also caused the smoker to have a smelly mouth and discoloured teeth.

According to the health officer, the nation is affected by tobacco related mortalities which decrease the population while the related diseases affect the overall productivity of the affected smokers.

Tobacco smoking also increases the country’s financial burden as a lot of resources have to be spent on treatment and management of various tobacco related diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says tobacco kills more than eight million people each year; with more than seven million of those deaths resulting from direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million were the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Although the Tobacco Control Board has been advocating for a tobacco-free nation since its establishment in 2007, there have been a number of challenges.

Mwangi observed that one of the major challenges is finding an alternative crop for the tobacco farmers to grow.

“Tobacco is mainly grown in semi-arid areas where not many other crops can grow, so it is a challenge to find another source of income for those farmers,” he said, adding that the crop is lucrative because of ready markets.

Another challenge is that although the Tobacco Control Act provides for designated smoking areas in most public places and workplaces, it is unclear whether smoking is prohibited in most means of public transport.

“Most small towns do not have designated smoking areas which means smokers end up smoking among the non-smokers,” he noted,

The law also prohibits the sale of single cigarettes and the sale of tobacco to persons under the age of 18.

“There is need for increased market surveillance to ensure the laws are being adhered to,” he said adding that there should also be timely prosecution of all offenders.

Mwangi noted that increased public awareness and health education is very important for both smokers and nonsmokers because often times, it was difficult to directly associate smoking of tobacco to some of the diseases it causes.

“The effects of smoking are gradual therefore convincing people of how harmful it is, is a challenge,” Mwangi said,

“Health education should start right from school when the children are young so that they can know the dangers of smoking early enough,” he added.



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