Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jun 2004
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Newspapers
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Nairobi -- More than half of secondary students who smoke cigarettes are 
ignorant of its harmful effects on their health, a new survey shows.

The Global Tobacco Youth Survey, Kenya Report, showed that about 400,000 
(13 per cent) of school going children countrywide smoked cigarettes, a 
habit which some of them started as early as at the tender age of seven.

However, more than half of the surveyed students support plans to ban 
smoking in public.

The survey, conducted by the ministries of Health and Education, with 
support from the World Health Organisation, showed that up to 80 per cent 
of boys and girls had seen pro-tobacco messages in newspapers and magazines.

Prof Justin Irina, the Commission for Higher Education chairman, revealed 
the startling statistics yesterday while presiding over celebrations to 
mark the 16th anniversary of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and 
Trafficking at the Kenyatta University.

The function, hosted by the Kenyatta University Seventh-Day Adventist 
students, was attended by students and lecturers from the University of 
Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Highridge 
Teachers College and the Kenya Science Teachers College.

Prof Irina observed that those who abuse drugs do so under the false belief 
that substance use enables students to study for long hours.

"Some believe in the myths and misconceptions that the drugs enhance power 
of imagination, sharpen ones mind and give strength and courage," he said 
and called on the youth to tell the difference between fact and fantasy.

He expressed regret that drug abuse was on the increase in Kenya after some 
youths get carried away by misleading advertisements in the media.

"Unfortunately most of the advertisements do not tell one that some of 
these drugs are dangerous. It affects the main organs of the body like the 
brain, lungs, heart and reproductive organs."

Prof Irina said the effects of drugs could make one "irresponsible, 
erratic, careless, a social misfit and a nuisance besides putting one at 
risk of HIV infection and other diseases".

Dr Gershom Amayo, the Kenya National Committee for the Prevention of 
Alcoholism and Drug Dependency coordinator, said education was the key to 
preventing drug abuse and HIV infection.

Meanwhile, Kenya has up to Wednesday to ratify the World Health 
Organisation's treaty on tobacco control and is the only East African 
country remaining to do so. The country was was among 192 countries which 
adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control during a 
World Health Assembly meeting held on May 22 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The convention urges nations to adopt stronger regulatory regimes on 
tobacco and promote more prevention programs.

It is the world's first public health treaty and calls for a ban on 
advertising and tobacco company sponsorship among other measures aimed at 
cutting down on tobacco consumption.

By May 26, 118 countries, including the European Community, had signed the 
agreement with the US signing early last month.

The treaty, the first to ever address a health concern, is open to 
signatories until June 29, 2004. The agreement would go into effect when 40 
nations have ratified it; currently 16 nations have done so.

Uganda signed in on March 5 while Tanzania is miles ahead after it ratified 
it last January and has already passed a Tobacco Control Act.

The convention requires countries to impose restrictions to tobacco 
advertising, sponsorship and promotion, establish new labelling and clean 
indoor air controls and strengthen legislation to clamp down on tobacco 
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager