Why the adult age under tobacco control is 21 years

By Elsa Zawedde
Back Ground
The Tobacco Control ACT defines a child as a person under the age of 21 years. The significance of this definition is that any person deemed a child is prohibited from growing, selling, harvesting and manufacturing or being involved in the chain of growth and the consumption of tobacco related products. This difference from the standard set by the Constitution and other laws is the basis of the article.
Standard definition of a child in the law
The standard in Uganda’s legislation seems to be uniform as the majority of the laws ascribe to a child being one below the age of 18. The standard is set by Article 257(c) of the 1995 Constitution Uganda that defines a child as a person below the age of 18 years.  The Children’s Act Cap 59, The Contracts Act 2010 and the Employment Act under their Sections 2 respectively take the position that a child is one below the age of 18 years. Considering the established standard in the Constitution, as the Supreme Law of Uganda all other laws should be brought in conformity with the Constitution as stated in Article 2 of the Constitution. This means that the Tobacco control Act would ordinarily ascribe to the definition of a child as one below the age of 18 years. Therefore, as far as the Ugandan legislations are concerned they seem to saliently recognize a child as one below the age of 18 years not withstanding minor adjustments made when it comes to child being employed under Article 34(3) of the Constitution provides for Children being one below the age of 16.
It would be inept to look at the child and tobacco without having the benefit of the International standard of the definition of a child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child  (here in after referred to as CRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990 and it defines a child under Article 1 as person who is below the age of 18 years.
Protection accorded to children in other laws
As practice has been in Uganda’s previous legislation “children” have been prohibited from engaging in the consumption of particularly harmful products to health. Pursuant to Sections 19(1) and Section 9 of The Liquor Act Cap 93, they restrict the participation of a person below the age of 18 years in engaging himself in distribution, supervision, selling and buying of intoxicating liquor, beer and Enguuli as stated there in.
The standard Parliament and the Legislators follow when deciding matters that have a bearing on children is the best interests of the Child. At the national level Article 34(1) of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Children’s Act Cap 59 articulates this clearly by stating that the guiding principles for decisions concerning the welfare of children are that the best interests of the child shall be considered in matters of policy.
Like the principles stated in the Constitution and Children’s Act, Article 3 of the CRC, makes providence of the best interests of the child as the basis for which institutions, authorities and legislative authorities will premise as they handle matters concerning the child. Article 4 of the CRC provides that states shall apply administrative and legislative measures to protect the child’s interests. It is under this premise that the Tobacco control Act is subject to the standard of the best interests of the child.
Justification for the Protection in the Tobacco Control Act
Before scrutinizing whether the minimum age of 21 is justifiable for consumption of Tobacco related products. It is important to note that because of the enormous potential harm of tobacco to children from its use and mere exposure, states have to undertake, a duty to take all necessary legislative and regulatory measures to protect the interests of the child. In a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001 by Safir Syed ;
Around 4 million people die prematurely from tobacco related illnesses each year, with the death toll expected to rise each year to 10 million people by 2030. Many of tobacco’s future victims are today’s children because it begins during adolescence and continues through adulthood… If current trends continue, 250 million children alive today will be killed by tobacco… Estimates are made that 700 million, or almost a half of the world children, breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke.
If the statistics by WHO are anything to go by Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous drug that should not be treated as a normal consumer good. This justifies the stringent measures on age than the other existing law.
Considering the fact that Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous drug that should not be treated as a normal consumer good, the requirements under the Constitution, Children’s Act and the Convention on The Right of the Child the premise that the best interests of the child should be the corner stone of any decision is upheld in the Tobacco Control Act.
Michael Bloomberg the Mayor of New York who has led the campaign to prohibit the use of tobacco related products in New York, stated  “21 is the right age limit by which one can take cigarettes because this would discourage people from being addicted In the first place since the earlier the people smoke, the more prone they are to get addicted.”(As reported by the New York Times, 30/09/2014)
A Child being described as a person below the age of 21 years for the purposes of the Tobacco Control Act is therefore reasonable and demonstrably justifiable. Unlike other commodities like Intoxicating liquor, tobacco’s addictive nature as a substance is dangerous to the young people, and the less exposure guaranteed by legislation in prohibiting the engagement in any tobacco related activities to persons below the age of 21 is a reasonable caution that will leaves our country more healthier with a more promising future.
One cannot over emphasize the need for conformity with the Constitution, however meticulous attention ought to be given to the unique nature of tobacco as a harmful substance. Therefore in acutely striking a balance between the health threat that tobacco is to our Country and the standard of who a child is in Article 257(c) of the Constitution: I appreciate the drafters of the Tobacco Control Act for the unique protection accorded to children through defining a child as a person below the age of 21 years for the purposes of Tobacco consumption and the Tobacco Control Act.

Tobacco Control Act: See Who's Demanding Implementation?

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. Tobacco Control Ug
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.
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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.  Tobacco Control UG

Mayor Pledges Support for Tobacco Control Campaign

On Tuesday, 4th October 2016, tobacco control stakeholders met for an orientation meeting with major enforcers including the Uganda Police, Uganda Revenue Authority and city authorities.

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Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi delivering presentation on tobacco dangers

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Enforcement was the major discussion point of this meeting. The Director of Public Health, Kampala City Council Authority was tasked to initiate enforcement as an authority who had available resources for the task. A representative of hotel owners who was also present agreed to do their part in enforcement starting with putting up smoke free signs.
#TobaccoFreeUg    #TobaccoFreeUg
Mayor of Kampala City delivered insightful remarks, there was a unanimous agreement to focus on enforcement. The Mayor who noted the laxity in taking the right to a smoke free environment seriously pledged his full support to the health cause.

Tobacco Control Radio Messages

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!

Death By Not Smoking

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.
 

What Are Our Children Buying From The Canteen?

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.
big tobacco tiny targets
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.

#WorldBreastfeedingMonth: Why Tobacco Is Bad News For Breastfeeding Mothers

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.

#TBT: A Research Fellow's Plea To Speaker To Pass Tobacco Control Bill

Although tobacco control has largely been constructed as a public health matter, research we conducted in Uganda last year shows that tobacco use is also solidly a poverty issue. Ugandans in the two lowest income groups have higher tobacco use rates than those in higher income groups even when they can afford it the least.
We analysed two combined Uganda household expenditure data sets of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 and asked a basic question. How much do poor households in Uganda spend on tobacco per week and what could this money potentially buy the household? We then looked at the prices of commodities in the Uganda Consumer Price Index of June 2010 and the potential purchases of selected alternative items with regard to food, health and education.
We found that money Ugandan households spent on tobacco every week could have bought eight litres of fresh milk or two loaves of bread. Studies done in Bangladesh show that households which spend on tobacco suffer more malnutrition than those which don’t. In the case of Uganda, we found that households’ weekly expenditure on tobacco was equivalent to the price of three and a half kilogrammes of maize flour during the same period.
The results also showed that money spent by a parent on tobacco could buy their children a set of primary school exercise books or 21 ball-point pens.
Read Full Article Here:

The Danger That Is Tobacco

Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of death globally. It claims more lives than Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The commonest cancer in the world today is lung cancer. Tobacco use has been determined to cause 71 per cent of all lung cancer cases. There would be 21 per cent less cases of heart disease globally if people didn’t smoke.
As the world commemorates the World No Tobacco Day on May 31, it is an opportune moment to reflect on Uganda’s burgeoning NCDs epidemic, and to reflect on the role of tobacco use in this largely-preventable epidemic.
Although tobacco use is often construed as a public health issue, it is also about poverty and development. According to the latest Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), tobacco use is more common among the two lowest income groups in Uganda and those with least education.
A study in Bangladesh by Debra Efroymson and others concluded: ‘’average male cigarette smokers spend more than twice as much on cigarettes as per capita expenditure on clothing, housing, health and education combined. The typical poor smoker could easily add over 500 calories to the diet of one or two children with his or her daily tobacco expenditure.’’
In 2010, Uganda had household expenditure of Shs 357bn spent on tobacco products, which was more than the government budget for health of Shs 310bn. Many smokers want to quit but are unable to due to nicotine-dependence – thanks to one of the ingredients wired into cigarettes.
But a lot can be done to reduce tobacco use’s contribution to the current NCDs epidemic in Uganda.  Probably, the most effective tobacco control measure is increasing taxes on tobacco products such as cigarettes. WHO has selected [raising] tobacco taxes as this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme.
In South Africa, a 10 per cent increase in taxes on tobacco was followed by eight per cent reduction in cigarette consumption. Low-income earners are the most sensitive to cigarette price increase. If a stick of cigarettes cost Shs 150 and you added Shs 50 in tax, at Shs 200 it would be more costly to smoke.
Young people are even two to three times more responsive and studies show that higher taxes and prices are most effective in preventing youth from moving beyond experimentation and into regular tobacco use.
Uganda has one of the lowest taxes on cigarettes in East Africa, and is way below the recommended tax rate it committed itself to when it signed the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in June 2007.
This article was originally written as an OpEd in The Observer newspaper. See full article here: