Help me reduce cancer related deaths by at least 1000 in Kenya through electronic cigarette use
I have never smoked cigarettes in my life and I passionately hate ordinary cigarettes. I have also a Christian background which makes it sin to smoke. Above all, I have never rationally understood the logic to why I would want to smoke. So for me, smoking and I have always been on opposite sides of the world.
Interestingly, in 1996, my elder brother then got a job with Kenya’s largest tobacco company and helped set up its Tanzania operations. From 1999-2003, he actually paid part of my school fees using his salary so am a beneficiary of the smoking habit by extension. In 2007, unfortunately, he passed on due to cancer. So I can say I have also been affected by cancer. However, in as much as his death affected me (since he inspired me on a number of fronts) I cannot say that he is the real reason for my involvement in e-cigarettes.
My involvement comes from the fact that I love to make a positive difference in my world. I also love adventure, doing new things that ordinary I would deem as crazy. Imagine me, a staunch Christian selling and promoting cigarettes! Another reason was to help build one of my clients from been an inheritor of a business to becoming an entrepreneur. Most importantly, I have set up N.G.Os, individuals, and businesses. Its either non profit or profit. I have never been involved in a project that both social and profitable at the same time. That’s heaven for me and the true meaning of social entrepreneurship.
So my real involvement occurred when a client of mine, a smoker at the time, before our weekly meeting, pulled out an e-cigarette and ‘smoked’ in front of me. In the past, mid meeting, he would walk out, take a puff then walk back in. This time I was furious about his disrespect for me and it took him 20 minutes to cool me down as he explained the concept since I had threatened to make that the last of our 3 year weekly meeting routine. I endured the meeting and resolved to research more about the matter later in the day. If I found out that he was lying, I vowed to make up numerous excuses and stop meeting him altogether. Anyway I found nothing wrong with the e-cigarettes but took no active interest in the concept since I was not a smoker- it is his life, his thing.
About 6 months later, I noticed that he had not used a cigarette in months and had no ash tray on his desk. And I thought wow, this thing really works. Imagine how many other people it would help? I immediately started convincing him to bring it as a product since he had the means to support it and in that way, I would be able to kill two birds with one stone.
In January 2014, another 5 months later, he accepted to bring in the e-cigarettes in Kenya. For me, I knew the first step of inspiring a business inheritor to become an entrepreneur had been achieved and now it was time to move to the next and most important step- improving people’s lives. I then set a personal target of reducing cancer deaths by at least 1000 people through the use of electronic cigarettes and other anti-smoking campaigns.
I then set up a Facebook page in March 2014 with the initial purpose to create awareness that there is a healthier alternative to nicotine use. I started by posting on my wall that I had started smoking so that my Christian friends would see it and provoke debate on the issue. That worked so well that they even sent a delegation to speak to me! Next I vowed to educate and train everyone who liked my page to remove any misconception about the product, its advantages and to answer any question to increase understanding. The page currently has over 675 likes by Nov 2014 with over 200 friends having completed a 4 session training from as far as Jamaica! The next thing I did was spoke to people in public transport, bars, smoking zones, street corners, police and practically anywhere. So far I have spoken to over 3000 people and have contacts of over 800 people, all people I randomly met and explained to about the concept. You can like the facebook page to receive more information, free training and to follow updates on the project the link is https://www.facebook.com/1stigara
It has been an interesting experience for which I have kept a journal about and hope to share it one day. I have also visited various towns all over the country on the same and honesty, the last time I have been this passionate on any project is when I was serving in the church and even then I didn’t approach random people on the street. So far over 100s of people have used the product with a number completely stopping smoking (sadly almost none is willing to testify publicly about its success) at least 3 other competitors have cropped up. I am hoping for more involvement by other stakeholders since the product is still in its infancy.
Key lessons learnt
Over the last 10 months since the launch of the concept in Kenya I have learnt the following lessons.
In 2009, various chemists and other stakeholders including the leading tobacco company attempted to introduce the product in Kenya but did not succeed. The three primary reasons were:
The product at the time did not offer value for money compared to a normal cigarette.
The marketing approach for the product was wrong. It was marketed as a Sisha stick. E-cigarettes do not give the same feel as shisha therefore people did not like it, it is also not shisha since it produces vapor and not smoke and finally
It was marketed to help smokers stop smoking. Smokers do not want to stop smoking. They got into the habit very well aware of its harmful effects. In fact its harmful effects made them more macho in a similar fashion as the marlboro man (in fact they are even tougher since they smoke death and do not die in the same way as going to war and not dying). In my opinion any anti smoking campaign that shows the health risks actually makes the cigarette more popular.
Therefore my major task would be on public re-education to help smokers that an e-cigarette will still deliver the nicotine in a less harmful way as tea delivers caffeine (nicotine replacement therapy) to do this I would need massive funds way above my initial self sponsored budgets hence the need for external funding to create awareness For the product to succeed, it would need government support, N.G.O funding, backing from the medical fraternity and most importantly adoption by the existing tobacco companies.
I intend to lobby, train, advocate, beg, preach, sing, debate and do everything possible that would encourage endorsement and support by any public and private institution.
Following on point number 3, there is a huge debate currently on if e-cigarettes are safe. For me, I wish not to indulge in that debate because there is a general consensus that they are safer than ordinary cigarettes. To explain basically why, ordinary cigarettes are burned using fire which leads to combustion which in chemistry, leads to the change in the chemical structure of the original substances that become new chemical substances. Any solid substances (trees, shoes, clothes, cars, people etc) are burnt to become ash (primary carbon) and release other new and at times multiple chemicals in the process. Burnt items cannot be reversed engineered to go back to what it was before the burning e.g you cannot burn a paper and then use the ash to convert the ash back to a paper.
Now liquids except those containing alcohol cannot be burnt. Water is usually heated and it does not change its chemical structure to become a new substance (hence no ash, carbon, blackness etc) liquids only change in state and you can revert to its original state after heating. Eg. Water solid is still water liquid and is still water vapor. The vapor can be cooled to become water liquid or water solid.
The basic concept of e-cigarettes is that nicotine is heated and not burnt and hence is safer than burning the cigarettes. Also the e-cigarette is the gadget that is used to heat the nicotine. Most health concerns revolve on the contents of the liquid and not the gadget itself. Our current e-liquid contains only medical and food grade substances. Also my primary task is to get smokers to use the gadget of e-cigarettes to deliver nicotine hence making it safer like the nicotine patch or gum then later think about the contents of the e-liquid which can be changed in future.
The purpose of the proposal
The objective therefore of this proposal is to primarily create awareness off the existence of electronic cigarettes in Kenya. This primarily means the alternative method of delivering nicotine to the current smoker buy use of an electronic gadget that heats the nicotine instead of burning it hence safer
I intend to educate, train, inform, support and engage in all manner of positive endeavors including research, networking and partnering with all interested parties from individuals, business, government, organizations etc to help reduce cancer deaths in Kenya that currently stand at 70 persons per day, 25,000 a year by at least 1000 yearly initially through the use of electronic cigarettes and later involve myself in other approaches that fight the spread of cancer that would include health, lifestyle, stress etc.
My specific targets are
- To speak to, in person, to 10,000 people in groups or as individuals to create awareness about the existence of e-cigarettes as an alternative nicotine delivery method (my initial target was 1000 but having done that now set my target on 10,000 people).
- To visit every county in Kenya every district in the wider east African region, a minimum of 100 towns in 3yrs, to create awareness of the existence of the product (so far I have covered over 6 towns in Kenya and visited hospitals, bus parks, pubs, etc creating awareness).
- To convince all necessary stakeholders from medical practitioners, media, government and non government agencies even religious organizations to endorse and support the use of electronic cigarettes to specifically current smokers as a nicotine replacement strategy.
- To personally train over 2000 people all over east Africa who will serve as spokespersons and point men and in turn train others using the trainer of trainer approach to ensure resource persons are located all over the East African region. This will ensure anyone in need of the information shall receive it.
- To set up the whole industry starting from resellers, brands, competitors, distributors, associations, N.G.Os, financiers etc in the east African region. A key success factor for me is when the large tobacco companies will start importing and distributing the product since they have already established distribution networks.
- Finally and most importantly to have at least 1000 written, photographed, signed testimonies of individuals who will have used electronics cigarettes firstly, as a nicotine replacement therapy and secondly, to have entirely stopped the smoking habit. I hope that these 1000 people would have also become personal friends in the process. I therefore call this campaign something social, something profitable
The funding amount
I intend to seek an initial total funding of USD 100,000 over two years that would cover the following activities
- Awareness creation including distribution of free samples USD 45,500
- Administrative costs including licensing and staffing USD 20,500
- Setting up the industry and other activities including advocacy and research USD 20,000
- Operational expenses that include travel, stocking etc USD 14,000
Sources of funds
I intend to use every possible method to raise funds for this project including Crowdfunding through media and direct appeals to individuals Donor funding from various organizations include faith based organizations Government through tax rebates, subsidies and official funding Business through corporate social responsibility activities and stocking, gifts etc of the actual product Reinvested profits through sales
Donations of any amount would be acceptable
With overfunding I will be able to move the project to the next phases and establish the same project in the Greater east Africa region. I will also be able to give out additional free samples and engage in other awareness, lobbying, regulation activities etc. I would also be able to build the capacities of the industry in partnership with all other relevant stakeholders up to the point where cancer deaths shall be reduced by a large percentage. However, the journey of 100 miles starts with one step and Rome was not built in a day… I will cross that bridge when I reach it.
So feel free to tell your friends and other people about the project. You can also follow me on my projects and work by sending a friend request to https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007624698197
For more information I can be reached on Tel +254 720 654 543 or email me at [email protected] .