Most of the products are non-combustible, which makes it hard for authorities to detect
Days after Kenya released a report decrying rampant drug abuse in schools, the World Health Organisation has called for a ban on nicotine and tobacco products in all learning institutions.
WHO has recommended a ban on the sale of such products near schools. The Kenya Tobacco Control Act already bans the sale of tobacco products near schools but it continues to be flouted.
The Act is silent on colleges and universities where most students are above 18 years.
WHO said the tobacco industry relentlessly targets young people with tobacco and nicotine products resulting in e-cigarette use increase. Nine out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18.
The products have also been made more affordable for young people through the sale of single-use cigarettes and e-cigarettes, which lack health warnings.
“Whether sitting in class, playing games outside or waiting at the school bus stop, we must protect young people from deadly second-hand smoke and toxic e-cigarette emissions as well as ads promoting these products,” WHO director of health promotion, Dr Ruediger Krech said.
The organisation released two new publications, Freedom from tobacco and nicotine: guide for schools, and Nicotine-and tobacco-free school toolkit to protect children in schools.
“The new guide and toolkit are step-by-step manuals for schools to create nicotine-and tobacco-free campuses. It takes a ‘whole of school’ approach–which includes teachers, staff, students and parents,” WHO said.
“The guide and toolkit include topics on how to support students to quit, education campaigns, implementing policies and how to enforce them.”
Most new nicotine and tobacco products are non-combustible, which makes it hard for authorities to detect. They include nicotine pouches, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, dry snuff, and moist snuff.
Health authorities say they are equally and in some ways more dangerous than traditional cigarettes.
According to the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority, alcohol, tobacco, bhang, miraa and prescription drugs are the most abused in schools.
The five-year national survey on the Status of Drugs and Substance Use (DSU) in Kenya, 2022 released recently shows 156,461 primary school children are currently abusing tobacco products, 127,124 are abusing alcohol, 112,456 miraa and 39,115 are bhang smokers.
Nacada’s Principal Researcher Morris Kamenderi said in total, 153,846 young people aged 15 to 24 are already severely addicted to alcohol, 90,531 are totally addicted to bhang, 58,819 to miraa and 58,819 to tobacco.
Such young people are expected to be in primary and secondary schools and colleges.
According to the WHO, Kenya will not be the first country to successfully ban nicotine products in schools.
WHO publications show India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine have successfully banned tobacco and nicotine inside and around campuses.
“The new WHO guide can help create nicotine- and tobacco-free schools that help keep kids healthy and safe. Nicotine-and tobacco-free policies help to prevent young people from starting to smoke, create a healthier, more productive student body, protect youth from toxic chemicals in second-hand smoke, reduce cigarette litter, and cut cleaning costs,” WHO said.
Last month, President William Ruto’s Presidential Working Party on Education Reform tasked the ministries of education and interior to launch a nationwide mass campaign and action against alcohol, drugs and substance abuse in schools.
The taskforce decried the rising cases of early pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, school unrest and bullying in basic and tertiary institutions.
“There is also a notable increase in the spread of HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted infections due to the moral degradation phenomenon among campus and college students,” the report shows.
In their written submissions to the PWPER, the Kenya Universities Students Organisation (Kuso) decried Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, crime, suicide, alcohol, drugs and substance abuse, and delayed or low completion rates as the issues affecting University students.
Source: The Star