Tobacco Control Activists to Sue UFZA Head Over Contravention of the Law

Tobacco Control Activists to Sue UFZA Head Over Contravention of the Law

Tobacco control activists led by the head of mental health division in the ministry of health and the focus spokes person of Tobacco Control Uganda, Dr.  Sheila Ndyanabangi have committed to drag the executive director of Uganda Free Zones Authority (UFZA) Richard Jabo to court, in case he fails to revoke the agreement giving out land measuring two hectares of land to Nilus Limited in Jinja district to enable it set up a 11 millon US dollar tobacco industry.

Dr. Ndyanabangi said that the Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), the Tobacco advocates legal arm is to first write a legal opinion to the Executive Director of  UFZA Richard Jabo, interesting him on how he awarded the land illegal since his action contravenes the Tobacco Control Act 2015 which prohibits any public servant from conniving with people in the tobacco industry or giving or receiving any incentive from the tobacco industry.

“Uganda free zone authority’ agreement with that tobacco company is null and void whether they did it knowingly or ignorantly. We shall first write a legal opinion to them, instructing them to withdraw the contract in addition to publishing it in press and once they fail to comply then we shall have no option other than prosecuting the Executive director individually since the law criminalize the organisation head not the organisation ” Said Ndyanabangi.

It should be noted that UFZA has been added to Ministry of trade, industries and cooperatives which also contravened the same act by declaring 2017 a tobacco growing year.

Tobacco control advocates emphasis that in case the two fail to abide by their legal opinions, they will be no other option other than prosecuting them.

The Tobacco control act 2015 was assented to by president Yoweri Kagutta Museveni on the 19th of  August 2015 and came into force on the 19 may of 2016 but it was given a grace period of one year to be fully implemented, which ended on 18th May 2017.

The act banned favored tobacco like Shisha, kuber and electronic cigarette, bans smoking in public places, advertising of tobacco products, refrains any public official from dealing in whatever way with the tobacco industry and once found guilty is liable to a fine of not less than one million shillings,  imprisonment not less than a year or serve both punishments.

The warning comes at a time when over 180 countries globally have adopted a similar law and when preparations for Uganda to join the rest of the world in commemoration of the world no tobacco day due every 31 of May are in high gear with this year’s theme being Tobacco affecting development.

What does the recent ruling on tobacco control regulations mean for the fight against NCDs in Kenya?

What does the recent ruling on tobacco control regulations mean for the fight against NCDs in Kenya?

Kenya is currently celebrating 10 years since the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act 2007, developed following Kenya’s ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 (link is external). Although the Act has been operational since 2007, full realisation of the gains intended has been elusive due to delays in implementing its associated regulations. The Tobacco Control Regulations 2007 are meant to be subsidiary laws intended to put into effect specific provisions of the Tobacco Control Act 2007 – but the tobacco industry have consistently fought legislation, realising that the regulations would ultimately impact on sales of their health harming products.

Tobacco in Kenya – what’s the problem?

Tobacco is the most preventable cause of death globally and has been singled out as one of the major risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases (link is external) (NCDs). Owing to this, a global NCDs agenda of reducing up to 30% of prevalence of tobacco use from people 15+ years by 2030 was set within the Sustainable Development Goals (link is external). According to Kenya STEPwise, a survey conducted in 2015 to collect information on the risk factors for NCDs, it is estimated that up to thirteen percent (13%) of Kenyans currently use some form of tobacco products (link is external). About ten percent (10.1%) of this population uses smoked tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipes and shisha, while the remaining three percent (3%) use smokeless tobacco.

Furthermore, it is estimated that nearly twenty-one percent (20.9%) of Kenyans are exposed to second hand smoke at home and work. These are indeed alarming statistics given the disturbing burden of NCDs in Kenya. On Thursday January 5, 2017, The Acting Director of World Health Organization’s (WHO) NCD cluster, and WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti decried the increasing burden of NCDs in Africa stating that heavy reliance on tobacco use was among the major causes of the rising NCDs and related deaths in the continent (link is external).

Kenyan Tobacco Control Regulations: a major boost in the fight against NCDs

The Tobacco Control Regulations 2014, give a greenlight to regulation of packaging and labelling of tobacco products manufactured locally or imported. Tobacco companies in Kenya are mandated by the regulations to print pictorial health warnings (PHWs) on both sides of their cigarette packs. Having explicit graphical/ pictorial health warnings depicting health effects of tobacco use have been lauded (link is external) as an effective way of encouraging tobacco smokers to quit smoking and discouraging others from starting the habit.

Involuntary exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is also a major concern to the fight against NCDs. With nearly twenty one percent of Kenyans involuntarily exposed to second hand tobacco smoke, there has been a sharp rise of NCDs among children, people living with disability and those living with AIDS. Effective implementation and enforcement of the Tobacco Control Regulations will protect the general public against exposure to second hand tobacco smoke in public places, and distinct private places where children and other vulnerable people could be exposed to tobacco smoke.

NCDs must be taken seriously and resourced sufficiently to maintain momentum

Incapacitation in the fight against NCDs in Kenya and in Africa has largely been attributed to low prioritisation of NCDs within the national agenda. This has in turn affected how resources are being allocated to NCD programs in Kenya, as well as the rest of the continent.

The Tobacco Control Regulations 2014, shine some rays of hope. In a quest to curb the rising negative health effects of tobacco use, these regulations have strongly highlighted provisions for the tobacco companies to justifiably take on the responsibility of dealing with these effects and costs to society. The regulations outline strong provisions for the tobacco companies to mandatorily contribute annually to the Tobacco Control Fund (TCF), through which the Ministry of Health is able to set up structures to support cessation programs, as well as conducting research especially on chronic conditions resulting from heavy reliance on tobacco use.

The tobacco industry – implicated in disease and death, but still fighting for their own survival

The tobacco industry sees the regulations as a threat to their business and income streams, which have increasingly focused on growing markets in Africa. Since before the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act of 2007, the industry has fought legislation in court, a test of our government’s financial resources, commitment to health, and resilience.

On Friday February 17, 2017 a major ruling was made by the Kenya’s Court of Appeal upholding the Tobacco Control Regulations 2007 and disqualifying an appeal case lodged by British American Tobacco (BAT) and Mastermind Tobacco Kenya Limited. Earlier BAT had prevented the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 from coming into effect in June 2015 through a legal process at the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the regulations. In March 2016, the High Court made a judgement in favour of the regulations which BAT opted to appeal, faulting the judgement by the High Court. They just would not sit back and accept the rule of court, and health advocates again ramped up in efforts to resist the appeal and ensure that the right to health was protected.

The fight against tobacco and NCDs can’t stop with this latest ruling – there’s much to be done

For all these gains to be enjoyed, there needs to be

  1. Political goodwill to fully implement general tobacco control policies in Kenya;
  2. Unwavering commitment by people charged with the responsibilities of overseeing compliance and enforcing the regulations; and
  3. Consistent monitoring and reporting structures on the achievements made in the implementation and enforcement of the regulations.

We hope that BAT’s appeal was the industry’s final assault on regulations designed to align with the FCTC, and in doing so protect the health of Kenyans today and into the future. We recognise the determination of the tobacco industry to disrupt and interfere using any means to protect their business. We stand vigilant to hold them at bay, and support the government and health sector in efforts to prevent tobacco related harm in Kenya. We also hope that our story inspires other governments and health advocates taking on the tobacco industry in court – it can be done, indeed – it must.

 

About the Author

Achieng Otieno (@sachieng (link is external)) is Communication and Digital Advocate for Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) (link is external) (@KETCA1 (link is external)). KETCA is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together civil society organisations advocating for tobacco control in Kenya. KETCA is a member of the NCD Alliance in Kenya (NCDAK).(link is external) The victory over BAT and Mastermind Tobacco were a result of collaborative effort from various stakeholders within the country and beyond, and for that KETCA expresses appreciation to supporters.

Shisha Arrests: Who Your Real Enemy Is

Shisha Arrests: Who Your Real Enemy Is

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.

 

Tobacco Control Act: See Who’s Demanding Implementation?

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

Tobacco Control Radio Messages

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!

Tobacco Control At Rotaract Kyengera

Tobacco Control At Rotaract Kyengera

The Tobacco Control Campaign through Mr. Daniel Kadobera of Ministry of Health, was hosted by the Rotaract Club of Kyengera on Monday 20th June, 2016. Mr. Kadobera who was also the guest speaker at the club’s fellowship disseminated the Tobacco Control Act to Rotaractors in an interactive session and stressed the importance of the law to especially the smokers.

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Daniel Kadobera from Ministry of Health speaking at the Rotaract fellowship

Daniel spoke about the high number of smokers in the country’s Cancer Ward which must not be ignored in the fight for a Tobacco Free Uganda. “There’s more money spent on Cancer treatment than earned from tobacco sale and usage,” he said. He also noted that the children were at a higher risk from inhaling tobacco smoke and that it should be everybody’s responsibility to protect them.

 

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Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015 Comes Into Force; Bans Smoking In Public Places

Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015 Comes Into Force; Bans Smoking In Public Places

The Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015 has come into force today, six months after being   gazetted on 18th November 2015. The tobacco control bill was passed by Parliament on 28th July 2015, and was assented to by the President on 19th September 2015. The Act is a fulfillment of Uganda’s obligations to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control ( FCTC) which  the country signed on 5th March 2004 and ratified on 20th June 2007.

Announcing the commencement of the Act this morning, the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng called upon the law enforcement agencies including the Police, Environment Protection Officers, Health Inspectors and Municipality Enforcement Officers among others, to swing into action by educating the public and businesses on the new law.  She highlighted the key provisions of the Act which include;

  1. Establishment of a Tobacco Control Committee chaired by Office of the Prime Minister with the Secretariat at the Ministry of Health.
  2. Prohibition of  smoking in all public places, workplaces, means of transport and other outdoor space within 50metres of a public place.
  3. Display of notices stopping smoking in the public places with words in English, Kiswahili and local languages spoken in the region.
  4. Total ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship by tobacco manufacturers, distributors and sellers , including at points of sale
  5. Total ban of some tobacco products including Shisha (water-pipe tobacco), smokeless tobacco such as Kuber which is chewed and flavored tobacco products.
  6. Ban on production, sale and use of electronic cigarettes
  7. Bans supply and involvement of minors below 21years of age in processes of production, sale and use of tobacco products
  8. Ban on importation, manufacture and sale of tobacco products which do not conform to standards of the government of Uganda to be stipulated in the regulations
  9. Prohibiting unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry as a way of protecting public health policies from tobacco industry interference.

The Act will officially be launched on World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2016.

See below the full law.

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