Tobacco to blame for rise in poverty
Tobacco farming contributes to rural poverty by reducing soil fertility, according to National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada).
Mr Seth Oketch, substance abuse consultant with Nacada, says that tobacco growing regions have always been classified among the poorest because they cannot provide sustainable food production for the locals.
“In 2006, the planning ministry ranked areas such as Kuria district among the poorest and research has shown that most of the tobacco grown in the country comes from that region,” says Mr Oketch.
He further says that most of the world leading producer countries of tobacco especially in Asia, South America and Africa are also among the world poorest.
“Tobacco has over 4,000 chemicals and exposes the consumers to high health risks. It is however unfortunate that no animal consumes the plant except human beings,” says Mr Oketch.
He said that in areas where tobacco is grown, the Ministry of Agriculture should introduce locals to alternative crops.
Ingredients used in the production of illicit brews also expose consumers to health risks because they are unhygienic and at times poisonous, he said.
According to Internal Security minister Professor George Saitoti, other than tobacco and alcohol, the abuse of other drugs including Marijuana, khat and heroin has increased.
“In 2007 alone, over 43 tonnes of bhang were netted by police along major highways. On miraa, Eastern Province has the biggest proportion of users at 26 per cent followed by North Eastern at 23 per cent and coast province at 17 per cent,” Professor Saitoti said. “The abuse of heroin cannot go unmentioned, in 2007, the United Nations office on drugs and crime mapped over 21,000 heroin users in Nairobi and coast provinces,” says Professor Saitoti.
In Nyanza province, the minister says that 17 per cent of adults abuse alcohol, 7.6 per cent abuse tobacco, 1.4 per cent smoke bhang and 1.5 per cent chew khat.
A study by NACADA in 2007 revealed that nationally, approximately 39 per cent of the population of between 15 to 65 years have once consumed alcohol, 13 per cent being current consumers while among the youth in learning institutions, alcohol abuse went up by 71 per cent over the period 2003 to 2007.
“In the same period, Kenyatta National Hospital reported an increase in alcohol related illnesses and accidents from 20 per cent to 43 per cent of admissions with over Sh7, 000 being used on treatment of each victim of alcohol related accident,” said professor Saitoti.
He says that the enormous negative socio-economic and health impact of alcohol and drug abuse to the public is a major concern to the government because it diminishes academic performance, work output and health outcomes which in turn translates into poverty and underdevelopment.
However, professor Saitoti says that the government has initiated several interventions in support of the fight against alcohol and drug abuse.
He says that his ministry has prepared the draft National Strategy for Prevention, Control and Mitigation of Drug and Substance Abuse.
Interventions by sectors
The policy provides a framework through which interventions by all sectors of society are brought together to address all aspects of the drug abuse.
“This has facilitated the inclusion of alcohol and drug abuse prevention in performance contracts of all public institutions,” says professor Saitoti.
He also says that the National Alcohol Policy has been prepared to provide direction to stakeholders and industry on the production, distribution, sale, consumption and regulation of alcohol drinks in the country.
This will ensure that alcohol does not cause harm to consumers and Kenyans in general.
Professor Saitoti further says that the Alcohol Drinks Control Bill 2009 has been published in readiness for debate in parliament.
By ABIUD OCHIENG’