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December 2, 2014

Powerful Mass Media Campaign Warns Kenyans About the Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(Nairobi, Kenya and New York, USA) – A national mass media campaign entitled “Tobacco Kills – Quit Now!” is being launched today across Kenya by Dr. Khadijah Kassachoon, the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Health, to warn people about the harmful effects of smoking tobacco and particularly the harms of second-hand tobacco smoke to the unborn, babies and young children; and to encourage smokers to heed the country’s smoke-free laws and to quit smoking. The Ministry of Health (MoH), with technical and financial support from World Lung Foundation, is undertaking this important mass media campaign, which combines public service announcements (PSAs) on TV and radio and community posters in both Swahili and English.

“Tobacco Kills – Quit Now!” is designed to empower Kenyans with new information about tobacco’s harms to dissuade them from smoking and to strengthen efforts to protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and only 100% smoke-free environments are effective in protecting the public from tobacco’s harmful effects. The campaign shows how children exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to suffer from severe respiratory infections, ear infections, asthma and sudden infant death. The campaign will air in all regions of the country from today, for one month.

“Tobacco Kills – Quit Now!” was pretested and rated most effective by Kenyans and other African audiences. This PSA has been successfully used in Cameroon and The Gambia, and in more than a dozen other countries, including China, Viet Nam, Australia, Lebanon and Poland, and has been found to motivate smokers to try to quit. The MOH, in collaboration with the support of the National Authority for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) has provided information on where to seek help to quit smoking tobacco. The campaign includes a toll-free help line – accessed by dialing 1192.


About Tobacco Use in Kenya and the Government Response

According to the recently launched Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2014, 1.7 million adults currently smoke tobacco while 14.3 percent (3.1 million adults) reported being exposed to second-hand smoke at home, 21.2 percent in restaurants, 17.6 percent in the workplace, 30.2 percent in universities and 86.1 percent in nightclubs and bars. Over three-quarters (77.4 percent) of current smokers planned to or were thinking about quitting, but only 5 in 10 smokers had attempted to quit in the past 12 months.

The most recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey (2013) revealed that 9.9 percent of Kenyan youth aged 13-15 years are tobacco users, with 7 percent using smoked tobacco products, and 24.8 percent of youth exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke at home. This campaign seeks to encourage quitting and support for the legislation on smoke-free public places so Kenyans will be protected from cigarette smoke, particularly in public places and at home where children are exposed to second-hand smoke alongside adults.

Tobacco is the most preventable cause of non-communicable diseases including cancers, heart diseases and lung diseases. These diseases are debilitating to sufferers and the cost of managing them is beyond the reach of the majority of Kenyans. The prevalence of these diseases will continue to rise if more people continue to smoke. Youth initiation of smoking is of particular concern. Policy interventions such as raising awareness of the harms of smoking, discouraging people from initiating smoking, increasing the cost of tobacco products, implementing smoke-free laws, and encouraging quitting, will help to halt and prevent a worsening of the tobacco epidemic in Kenya.

In response to the tobacco epidemic, Kenya’s government ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on 25th June 2004 and has domesticated it through comprehensive national legislation. The Tobacco Control Act 2007 provides for extensive, effective tobacco control measures including a ban on smoking in public places; a ban on direct and indirect tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; a ban on the sale of tobacco products to and by minors; a requirement for tobacco products to carry health warnings; and a requirement that tobacco control measures, including public awareness and cessation interventions, are integrated into the health care service.

Dr. Khadijah Kassachoon, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Health, Kenya, said: “As Government, we are committed to ensuring that all Kenyans access the highest attainable standards of health and live in a healthy environment. We know the cost of tobacco use on users and second-hand tobacco on others and as such we are on course to curtail smoking, ensuring that Kenyans are protected against tobacco and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation, said, “Studies from around the world show that the most effective mass media campaigns feature strong, graphic, negative messages about the health harms of tobacco (1). “Tobacco Kills – Quit Now!” is effective because it helps people to understand the real and specific dangers of second-hand smoke to babies and children, whose respiratory systems are highly vulnerable to the damage caused by second-hand smoke. WLF is pleased to support the Kenyan Ministry of Health in launching this national anti-tobacco campaign.”

The Importance of Mass Media Campaigns in Tobacco Control

Mass media is a cost-efficient (2) way to encourage support for tobacco control policy, promote behavior change in both smokers and non-smokers, reduce smoking, encourage quitting and prevent young people from initiating tobacco use, because it reaches large segments of the population. Countries can further save time and resources by adapting campaigns that have performed well in other countries. Sustained use of hard-hitting mass media campaigns contribute to population-level decreases in smoking prevalence by increasing knowledge about the health risks of tobacco use, encouraging quit attempts and improving quit rates.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year – one in ten adults worldwide. Research has shown mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means of prompting people to stop smoking. It is also one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. M-P-O-W-E-R strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.

Additional support for this campaign was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the African Tobacco Control Alliance.

*NOTE TO EDITORS: Screenshots and video copies of the PSA are available upon request or via The PSA is available to view at (Swahili version) or (English version).



1 a) National Cancer Institute, The role of the media in promoting and reducing tobacco use. Tobacco Control Monograph No. 19. NIH Pub. No. 07-6242, 2008, USDHHS, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute: Bethesda MD.;
b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, 2007, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health: Atlanta, GA;
c) World Health Organization, Smoking cessation media campaigns from around the world: Recommendations from lessons learned, 2001, World Health Organization: Copenhagen.
2 a) Durkin, S, et al., “Mass media campaigns to promote smoking cessation among adults: an integrative review,” Tobacco Control, November 2011
b) Atusingwize, E et al., “Economic evaluations of tobacco control mass media campaigns: a systematic review,” Tobacco Control, July 2014
c) HHS, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, A Report of the Surgeon General, 2012

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