During a recent scouting of the neighborhoods of Kamwokya suburb in Kampala, we went by the KCCA Primary School during the school lunch break that also seemed like a break off. Directly opposite the school less than 10 meters from the school gate is a kiosk/shop from which pupils buy eats and drinks. On close observation, the front door of the shop is pinned with a large British American Tobacco poster. Inside, cigarettes are on clear display- and about 10 minutes later, a young boy about 10 years of age runs past us with cigarette sticks in his hand from the shop. Which clears any doubt in our minds about whether cigarettes are actually sold to children.
The 2015 Uganda Tobacco Control Act prohibits the sale of tobacco to children under the age of 21 years and whereas one might argue that to identify who is 21 and above will be difficult, surely it s highly unlikely that there will be a 21 year old in Primary School. The law also places a complete ban on any kind on advertisement, that seen in poster form at the shop inclusive.
To implement this will undeniably be an uphill task and there’s so much work to do: but what are you doing about the exposure of tobacco and its dangers to yourself but most especially to your children? Think about it.
Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco may reduce your milk production and inhibit the let-down reflex. It also may make your baby fussy or irritable. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for many problems, including ear infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). You should not smoke or be around those who do while you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Illegal drugs can be passed to a baby in some amount through the breast milk. Drug use can cause poor milk let-down in the mother and a lack of energy, intoxication, hyperactivity, addiction, or other health problems in the infant. Drugs can also get in the way of a mom’s ability to care for her child.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary: Panorama; The secret bribes of big tobacco broadcast on the 30thNovember 2015. Panorama found that British American Tobacco (BAT) illegally paid politicians and civil servants in countries in East Africa. Uganda has a very strict law on control of Tobacco smoking and exposure.
The Uganda media prints: New Vision, 2nd December 2015 in an article by Chris Kiwawulo: MP denies receiving sh102M bribe; The Daily Monitor by Nelson Wesonga: MP named in Shs 67 M BAT bribery Scandal. The MP of Bugangaizi west Hon. Kasirivu Atwooki is alleged among officials who received bribes from BAT in a bid to block tough anti-Smoking laws to which he has filed a total denial. It must be recalled that Tobacco Control Act (TCA) was assented to on the 19th of September 2015 by the president and is awaiting publication in the Uganda gazette. The Uganda tobacco Control Movement welcomes such reports and calls on more to be exposed, while awaiting the alleged to show cause as to why they should not be suspect.
Let me make reference to sections of the TCA prohibiting Civil servants, policy and law makers from hobnobbing with the tobacco industry. We must be reminded that Article 79 clause (1) of the Constitution exclusively charges parliamentarians with the responsibility of making laws thence making Tobacco Industry interference a resultant force to reckon with.
Section 20 subsection (1) of the TCA stipulates ‘ a person, body or entity that contributes to or may contribute to the formulation, implementation, administration, enforcement or monitoring of the public health policies or tobacco control shall not interact with the tobacco industry except where It is strictly necessary for the effective regulation of the tobacco industry or a product.’ With subsection (2) insists that the accepted interactions must be transparent.
Section 21 and attendant paragraphs prohibit partnerships and endorsements from the Tobacco industry to civil servants, policy and law makers directly or incidental to the formulation, monitoring or enforcement of the TCA.
Sections 22 and 23 prohibit soliciting or receiving or and accepting voluntary contributions of people and persons involved in activities or those incidental to the TCA.
Penalties for contravention of sections 21, 22, 23 on conviction provided in section 24 among others include: cancellation of partnership, endorsement, MOU; forfeiture of contribution and revocation of the incentive, benefit, privilege or tax exemption. It is vital to note that section 44 on General penalty avers that “ Any person who commits an offence under this Act for which no penalty is provided shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 24 currency points or imprisonment for 1 term not exceeding 6 months.
The allegations and more yet to surface are machinations the Tobacco Industry uses to compromise Tobacco control and regulations by targeting like officials. It was due to this that Tobacco control activists with the mover of the law vehemently argued for these punitive sections. For more I enjoin you peruse the law. The Law is alert to the resourcefulness whistle-blowers are, they too are protected in section 41 (3) in conformity with the whistle blower protection Act, 2010.
TCA is a tobacco Industry inconvenience; it is incumbent on us to evoke our civic duty espoused in Article 19 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda as amended to make this Public health tool work. This operationalises Article 39 of the Constitution that enjoins us to the right to a clean and health Environment. We must be steadfast in holding the Tobacco Industry accountable by leaving it no chance to abuse Tobacco Control efforts embedded in our legislation.
Let us continue to de-normalise the deceptive schemes of the Tobacco Industry disguised in gifts, dust bins looking in the shape of cigarettes, promotions only intended to reach out to new clientele especially the none suspecting under 21 year olds.