Friday, October 31, 2008


In recent days, some have stated that the cost of treating cigarette smoking-related ailments costs the government a significant amount - six times the revenue generated, by some estimates. Now, this figure may be correct - or not. It all depends on some facts being brought to light. Do the anti-tobacco campaigners have any hard data to present? Let's see if they can answer these questions:
1. How many cigarette-smoking ailments are recorded each year in Kenya?
2. How many of these cases are treated in government-run health facilities?
3. What is the cost of treating these ailments?
4. How much of this cost is borne by the government?
5. How much revenue is generated from tobacco companies?
6. How much revenue is generated from tobacco-users?
7. How many of the tobacco-users suffer from tobacco-related ailments?
8. How many of them seek treatment from government-run health institutions?

The list is endless. Now unless the likes of Mr. Ndubi and Co. can answer these questions, their position starts to seem like a case of over-enthusiastic anti-smoking do-gooding. He quotes EMCA - specifically section 3 - on the fact that every person in Kenya is entitled to a clean and healthy environment. He forgets to mention that every person in kenya has a duty to safeguard and enhance the environment.

It is a fact that the air quality in Nairobi is not affected only by cigarette smoking, but also by the many factories in the industrial area, the thousands of vehicles that are poorly maintaining spewing sulfates and oxides into the air, the open-air incinerators in residential areas - the list is endless. If one were to stand along the sidewalk of a busy Nairobi street s,oking a cigarette, it is my contention that the amount of air pollution caused would be negligible. Indeed, I would argue that it would be next to impossible to cause any form of second-hand smoking-related ailment. One is more likely to suffer from URTI due to the general poor quality of the air in Nairobi, of which second hand cigarette smoke is a minor component.

As a smoker, I am for reasonable restriction on where smoking can take place. The restrictions, however, must be reasonable. I agree with the total ban on smoking in government premises, houses of worship, hospitals, schools, colleges, universities and public conveyances. I agree that restaurants and pubs must designate proper smoking zones where non-smoking patrons will not be at risk of second-hand smoke. I do not agree that the street is off-limits to smokers, save for a few poorly designed and poorly-sited 'smoking zones'. Given the aforemetioned points, the street is hardly a paragon of air quality. It defeats the purpose of enhancing human health if the least contributor to poor air quality is controlled - because it is easy to do so - while the more obvious causes of respiratory diseases (cars, buses, motor-cycles, lorries, taxis, etc.) are allowed to proliferate and pollute. The lunatics who came up with that provision in the Tobacco Control Act, must make amendments reflecting this reality - or else, they should simply outlaw smoking altogether. That would fix things, wouldn't it?

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