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Why Uganda Needs Strong Tobacco Control Measures

UNHCO and partners have launched an advocacy campaign in support of the tobacco control bill. The objectives of this campaign are: to galvanize support for the passage of the tobacco control bill; and to broaden the the voice of Civil Society Organisations in the passing of the tobacco control bill.

Robinah Kaitiritimba (UNHCO’s Executive Director) adds her autograph to an art-piece at the launch of the advocacy campaign in support of the tobacco control bill.

In 2005 the world ratified the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first public health treaty in history. It was negotiated by 193 World Health Organization member states and has so far been signed and ratified by 176 countries, representing nearly 90% of the world’s population. We are proud to mention that Uganda is one of the 46 African countries which signed and ratified this important public healthy treaty. However, it’s also important to note that our country is not among the eleven African countries that have tobacco control laws in place. By ratifying this treaty, our leaders made a promise to our children and people that they will protect them from death, disease and disabilities resulting from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Now is the time to deliver on those promises and our leaders cannot backtrack on their commitment to save millions of Ugandans dying of tobacco attributable disease. In order to protect the health and lives of her people, Uganda must act urgently and collectively to enact a comprehensive and WHO FCTC compliant tobacco control legislation.

We know that about 22% of Ugandan males and 4% of females between 15 and 49 years of age, currently, use tobacco products. We also know that tobacco use is highly addictive and kills one-third to one-half of all lifetime users and an estimated 6 million people die each year from lung cancer, heart disease and other tobacco related illness (1 in 10 adult deaths). By 2030, 80% of those deaths will be in developing countries, where Uganda lies, unless something is done. Scientific research tells us that on average, smokers lose 15 years of life and half of all smokers will die of tobacco-related diseases. It’s sad to note that about 600,000 of the deaths are attributed to second hand-smoke. Unless we take a preventive action now, Uganda will be one of those countries to bear the brunt of this death toll.

To date, our country has been a role model in the fight against HIV/AIDS and we have the opportunity to show the world that we still attach great value to human life by simply adopting the world’s proven best practices to prevent the tobacco epidemic, perhaps the biggest threat to our health, economy and development. For instance, we know that 100% smoke-free environments, tax increases on cigarettes, pictorial warning labels, total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship have prevented the youth from starting to smoke and forced the poor to quit smoking.

Faced with a declining market and strong tobacco control measures in developed economies, multinational companies are targeting low and middle-income countries as their future market for their death, disease and disability causing trade. We are aware that the Tobacco Industry in Uganda is marshalling huge funds, their usual tricks and tactics to frustrate the tobacco control legislation process.  I would like to encourage us to be the watch dogs of their works having in mind the health burden of tobacco and how it is denying the citizens their right to health. They may have all the money to frustrate us but we also have scientific facts to prove the enormous health, economic and environmental burden caused by their lethal products.

It’s important to note that tobacco affects every sphere of a country and policies to prevent tobacco related deaths and diseases are only effective when all arms of a Government work together. We all have to be alert and committed because we are fighting for a noble cause.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids has provided support to civil society and other partners involved in this struggle. The Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation have also provided continuous support towards this initiative.


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  1. this is a good move which has to be embraced by every responsible citizen

  2. Helo, Environmentalist, Public health practitioners and advocates of Health users’ and consumers: we all claim and enjoy the right to a clean and a healthy environment courtesy of Art. 39 of the Supreme law subsisting in Uganda.

    Of late Parliamentary committee is holding public conversations on the Tobacco Control BIll 2014 moved by Dr. Baryomunsi the MP from Kanungi District near Kihihi where his constituents grow Tobacco and its contested whether tobacco growing raises their standards of living rather dampen their public health.

    The Bill is a public health concern not an issue to be trashed by legal gymnastics and economic exploiters. Public health is a public good easy consumed by everybody including it’s abusers. UGanda National Health user’s/ Consumer’s Organisation(UNHCO) as it coalesces with like stakeholders has persistently associated itself with this.

    Non communicable diseases related to Tobacco are very expensive to treat and yet the poorest of the poorest of Ugandans cannot contain or dismiss tobacco exposure. The centre for Tobacco Control Africa and the School of Public health Makerere have done scientifically unimpeachable studies on the role of tobacco exposure occasioned by the millions of toxins therein that are highly reeking of carcinogenic elements as have been scholarly and cautiously compiled by UNHCO, CTFK, TXT among others.

    Third hand smoking as is the case with an expectant mother living in the same dwelling house with an active smoker runs 100% risks of fortunately delivering and Underweight Baby though unfortunately and perpetually miscarriage on all her pregnancies unless the cleaning process from tobacco is by way of divorcing herself for the place of the smoker who may be her lawfully wedded husband. I therefore invite the family court of lawyers to interest themselves in considering Tobacco smoking of one of the spouses as a ground for divorce cum Legislator. Continuing in such is inhumane and degrading treatment meted on the unwilling partner even when consent is obtained the voiceless unborn’s consent is not obtained.

    The 30th October 2014 New vision authored by Michael odeng: Court blocks factory from processing Tobacco. Justice Masalu Musene handed over judgment in favour of the plaintiffs at Nakawa high court circuit in whose jurisdiction Kireka residential area is where Leaf tobacco and commodities LTD operates without Environmental Impact Assessment Certificate issued by NEMA though for the planned project in the industrial park- Namanve. NEMA co-sued is charged by the National Environment Act cap 135 and attendant laws to among other carry out Environmental monitoring and auditing of all projects in Uganda. Uganda has legal judgments against the establishment of factories in areas gazetted as residential areas a visit to kireka area shall give the inquisitive doubting Thoma a fairer view of what the unsuspecting consumers go through.

    A Joke shared from the community: “YOu cannot date a girl from Kireka, they all smell Tobacco!” it went on to say” when they wash their clothes they dry them in the tobacco carrying wind; wearing perfume does not help matters.”

    1. Is it a sellable argument to say now person has been determined at post mortem to have died of Tobacco?

    2. Are the residents beneficiaries or victims of trickery for self seeker like politicians or civil society organisations?

    3. Is it development sustained to have a factory whose corporate social responsibility is giving coffins to the bereaved for whom most deaths are not clear yet they complain of chest pains.

    The stench in the houses at night compels the wrecked of the earth to open their windows all night so that the tobacco particulates can follow the cycle of the wind: what a feast they are to the mosquitoes the rest is left to history and that goes on Neera- neera – neeraneera.

    The God sent judgment has been appealed which mean the status quo is to be maintained and the short reprieve has been smoked away into the cloudy smog of the wind cycle implying the anticipated 60 days that would have delivered a sigh of relief to the residents is not to be face with a bang of activity from the appellants. ‘Ani atuloga fe abantu be kireka’ (who is cursing Kirekanians) lamented the residents.

    Fellow Residents: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.Martin Luther King, Jr.

  3. Talibita Moses

    Last Sunday was World No Tobacco day, the activities of the Tobacco control champions is increasing and the Tobacco control Advocates are counting on them for all the influence they can master to be placed on the policy and law makers to cause a legal and institutional frame work that adheres to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

    Uganda is moving forward, we must appreciate that the earlier mover and seconder of the Tobacco Control Bill, 2014 ( Hon. Bahati & Baryomunsi) were appointed by the President of Uganda as State minister for economic planning and General duties of the Ministry of Finance and Health respectively.

    The TCB is before the Health committee due for the second reading. The Former chair has been appointed in his political party which assignment failed him to continue with the noble task of delivering to the Ugandans the Tobacco Control Bill for its second reading. Well, a substantive chair of the committee was appointed in the names of Hon. Bitekyerezo and his a Medical doctor and we have interfaced with his enthusiasm on the protection of public health. The Bill now equally practical and energetic mover and seconder.

    UNHCO is upping her pursuits for the enactment of a law that shall control tobacco use to mitigate tobacco side effects on the none suspecting public. We are mapping our opinion leaders that shall act as game changers to prevail on the lawmakers. We shall concentrate all our energies on demystifying TI efforts that are derailing our efforts contrary to the dictates of the WHO FCTC framework.

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