In light of the 30 arrests made by the Uganda Police in a bid to enforce the Tobacco Control Law, there has been a lot of reactions. Many were positive and receptive towards the move but also several were non receptive at worst and angry at best.
The angry reactions are directed to the Tobacco Control Campaign and the police. From a notorious bar owner who threatened the team that had accompanied the Police, to Shisha users online who have sworn to fight enforcement and keep up the habit. These, even after late last year,authorities confiscated Shisha pots in Mukono District and warned the public of Shisha’s illegality.
Whereas the thought of being arrested or risking arrest is indeed uncomfortable, the public should make an effort to abide by laws generally but also, and perhaps more importantly, a public health law. If not for anything else, then ofr the good of their health.
The World Health Organisation warned that a one-hour shisha session is as harmful as smoking 100 cigarettes. While a cigarette smoker most likely takes between 8 and 12 puffs, an hour-long shisha session smoker may take up to 200 drags; inhaling way more smoke and other harmful chemicals in tobacco; nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, ammonia- a gas whose inhalation causes poisoning, hydrogen cyanide- a fumigation chemical, arsenic- used in insecticides, and DDT inclusive.
Now you might be angry at the law and its enforcers now, but the Tobacco Control law provision that bans the sale and consumption of Shisha is an ally in the long run. With our country’s health sector already struggling with inadequate facilities and drugs for treatment, the last thing you want is to end up with a health condition from your habit, one that you could have avoided. The real enemy here is Shisha/Hookah and Tobacco.
The environmental police in Mukono on Saturday 10th December, 2016 took possession of 20 Shisha pots from a popular hangout, Casablanca Bar in a move to enforce the Tobacco Control Act that came into force early this year in May.
The officer in charge, Mr. Robert Wowuya was accompanied by Mr Moses Talibita, the legal officer of Uganda National Health Consumer’s Organisation and another officer who was wearing a sling on his arm. The officer, police say, had been injured the previous night in a scuffle with smokers from whom he sought to take shisha pots.
The Tobacco Control Act which came into force early this year in May has been highly publicized in media and through sensitization of the public by Tobacco Control activists. “Enforcement has began with Mukono, JInja and Kampala as pilot districts and come May 2017, we’ll have tackled implementation of the law in its entirety,” Talibita says.
It is important to note that whereas the law seeks to only control tobacco use in the interest of protecting the non-smokers health, some items including Shisha, Kuber and sweetened tobacco products are completely banned and their sale is thereby illegal.
The Tobacco Control Act, 2015 forbids tobacco industry interference in tobacco control efforts. . It was reported (The Daily Monitor November 4, 2016) that the Tobacco Industry had lobbied some Government Officials to nominate delegates who would represent the industry interests at the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) currently taking place (7th to 12th November 2016) in India. This is contrary to the overall objective of the Tobacco Control Act 2015, as well as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Lobbying Government officials is one of the documented strategies/tactics that the Tobacco industry uses to subvert, undermine and derail tobacco control efforts (WHO: 2009).
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the WHO FCTC and is comprised of all Parties to the Convention. It keeps under regular review the implementation of the Convention and takes the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation. It is the most important global anti-tobacco conference, and holds regular sessions at two-year intervals under the auspices of the WHO FCTC Convention Secretariat. The main focus for this year’s session is the review of the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. Given its mandate, the tobacco industry and its allies MUST NOT in any way participate in this meeting as this would clearly be an act of interfering with the tobacco control policy formulation process.
The delegation of the Uganda Government at the COP 7, is headed by a team of Ministry of Health Officials. As members of the tobacco control Forum/ Coordination Mechanism, we strongly condemn efforts by some government officials to connive with the tobacco industry to interfere with tobacco control policies even at the global level.
Contrary to the assertion by Tobacco Industry and its allies that tobacco growing is being banned, the Tobacco Control Act, 2015 does not ban tobacco growing in any way. The Government is working on implementing WHO FCTC article 17 & 18 through its National agriculture policy (NAP: 2013). The policy aims at promoting and providing alternative livelihoods for persons engaged in tobacco growing.
Uganda ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2007. As a party to this Public Health Treaty, Uganda is obligated to protect its public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry (Article 5.3 of WHO FCTC), including measures related to international cooperation on tobacco control. Section 7(1) of the Tobacco Control Act 2015 requires a Minister of Health to designate a person within the Ministry to be the National Focal Point Person for tobacco control whose duties and obligations are highlighted under subsection 5 of the Law. A wider interpretation of the section infers powers to nominate delegates to COP. Indeed the COP and WHO Secretariat require the Ministry of Health to nominate participants for this meeting The WHO FCTC encourages Governments to allow participation of Civil Society in tobacco control activities as stated by guiding principle 7 of the WHO FCTC including participation in COP.
Section 19 of the Act urges the Government to protect tobacco control policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. This therefore means that the Act restricts Government officials from interacting, supporting, endorsing or accepting “any non-binding or non-enforceable agreement, agreement with the tobacco industry except for purposes of regulating and monitoring the tobacco industry or tobacco products and the interaction must be transparent”.
Participation of the tobacco industry and its allies in any activity furthering tobacco control, including FCTC Conference of Parties, is an attempt to promote tobacco industry interests at a global level and is forbidden under Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and our domestic law, given that the industry’s interests conflict with the overall public health goal.
With regard to tobacco control, the tobacco industry interests conflict with Government interests. Whereas, the interests of the industry is to maximize profits from toxic tobacco products, Government interests remain to reduce consumption of tobacco to protect people’s health from devastating health effects.
We therefore, urge all Government officials to abide by the Tobacco Control Act, 2015 and desist from getting involved into tobacco industry efforts to derail tobacco control efforts. There is no excuse whatsoever that justifies undermining domestic laws including the Tobacco Control Act, 2015 which was enacted to protect the health and lives of Ugandans.
The Uganda Tobacco Control Act came into force on 19th May, 2016. Since then, there has been mass sensitization in billboards, radio shows, newspaper articles and social media campaigns. Implementation of this law however requires the Ministry of Health to write regulations upon which enforcement is to be based.
In the meantime, many bars in Kampala and its surburbs continue to sell “Shisha,” a popular among young people, water pipe tobacco whose sell, distribution and therefore consumption are completely banned in the Tobacco Control Act.
Godfrey Kutesa has the past week taken matters into his hands, so to say. This young man and several of his friends took to the streets and city roundabouts holding placards of messages about tobacco use; also on placards were messages demanding that the law be implemented to save lives. They have gone ahead to visit some schools to speak about the dangers of tobacco. At City High School’s assembly yesterday, they encouraged students to be responsible for their own lives and stay away from cigarettes and shisha which have negative health implications like lung cancer on users.
More important to us than anything is that you not only hear about the Tobacco Control Act, but also understand it from us and not the law enforcers when enforcement begins. So in a bid to achieve this, we’ve gone ahead to break it down for the public in all forms. Several workshops, public dialogues and most recently, radio ads and bill boards.
So in the next few days while you listen to your radio or walk/drive around in your neighborhood, you’ll hear and read vital information about the law. From the complete ban on hookah/shisha, to the 50 meter requirement for every smoker, you’ll know about it all.
Interestingly for the radio listeners, you can also win airtime from us! All you have to do is to listen to the radio stations in your region during the day and relay to us the message you hear about us. You can tell us on either our Facebook page( TobaccoControlUg) or on twitter, ( @TobaccoCtrlUg). Happy winning!
A recent Ministry Of Health survey shows that 13,000 Ugandans die of tobacco related diseases every year- but here’s is what is even more shocking, the same survey shows that half of these people are non-smokers. (do not use tobacco) Yes, about 600 Ugandans who do not use tobacco die of tobacco related diseases.
While that sinks in, you might want to remember the Clause 12 of the Tobacco Control Act specifies that “A person shall not smoke within 50 meters of any public place…” Many smokers have expressed their dissatisfaction with clause and found it, “harsh,” but is it really harsh when it aims at protecting another life? Or is it we’re used to our freedom to violate other people’s rights as long as we’re doing what we want?
Take for example, when a smoker travels by plane to another country, they are restricted from smoking on the plane. It could be for 4, 6 or even 12 hours, in which time they abide by the restriction. Why then, would it be in this case considered harsh to just smoke at a safe distance away from other people? The law is not harsh, it does not take away the right of the smoker: it only requires that the health of others be respected and preserved.
We can all exercise our rights while respecting others’ rights too.
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.