March 1, 2011 - Persons who smoke in public places risk being imprisoned for up to two months if the draft bill on tobacco control is enacted. The Tobacco Control Bill 2010 was drafted by public health advocates, which include the Uganda National Tobacco Control Association and The Environmental Action Network. The Bill is intended to guide the Government in enforcing the National Environment (Control of Smoking in Public Places) Regulations 2004 that imposed a ban on smocking in public places.
The ban followed the December 2002 declaration by the High Court that smoking in public places was a violation of non-smokers’ rights to life and to a clean and healthy environment.
The regulations have, however, not been enforced and there have been no reported arrests or prosecutions in relation to the control of public smoking.
The two organisations (Uganda National Tobacco Control Association and The Environmental Action Network) are now engaging the ministry of health to table the Bill before Parliament. But Gilbert Muyambi, the secretary general of the Uganda National Tobacco Control Association, said they may sponsor it as a private members bill if the ministry is hesitant.
Back in August 2004, Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, then Water, Lands and Environment minister, just after signing the law banning smoking in public told police: " “Now that the law is here, if you find someone or people smoking in public places, just arrest them." But little has changed in 4-years, Ugandans continue to puff away wherever they please following failure by the responsible government agencies to implement the directive. (Uganda - smoking ban NOT enforced..)
Primary health care state minister James Kakooza is optimistic that the ministry will support the Bill to protect human health, regardless of how much money is raised by taxing tobacco products. He said this was the position they intended to present before the Cabinet.
The draft Bill suggests that no person shall smoke a tobacco product while in an enclosed public place, workplace, or within five metres of the doorways of such places. It also empowers owners, occupiers and operators of public places to evict smokers from their premises.
The Bill also seeks to prohibit retail sale of tobacco products in certain places and imposes a similar penalty on persons who contravene this section. Such places include any place accessible to the general public for collective use, regardless of ownership or right of access.
Persons who knowingly or unknowingly sell cigarettes to minors will also face prosecution. “The products will also include objects like sweets, snacks, cigarette lighters or toys that resemble a tobacco product or which in any way are likely to appeal to a person under the age of eighteen years” Muyambi noted.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills 4.9 million people per year. It is estimated that by 2030, 10 million people will die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, 70% of these in developing countries like Uganda.
Reference: Public smokers could get 2 months in jail by Sylvia Nankya, NewVision.co.ug, 2/27/2011.
Related news briefs:
African COMESA countries against WHO's attempt to ban ingredients used in blended tobacco..;
Tobacco companies frustrate Africa's fight against smoking..;
Africa - the increase in tobacco use must be prevented..;
Uganda - growing tobacco at the expense of growing subsistence crops..;
Uganda - overview of the tobacco industry tactics..;
Uganda stronger warnings on cigarette packs within 6-months..;
Uganda - smoking ban NOT enforced..;
British American Tobacco (BAT) - 100 years in Africa...