5 February 2013

Uganda: Draft Law Just Made Tobacco Too Expensive

Yumbe and Zombo districts drop cash crop for food crops:

A proposed anti-tobacco legislation could soon make it more expensive to deal in the product. Its proponents have secured a certificate of financial implications from the ministry of Finance which essentially paves way for the bill to be tabled in Parliament. The bill, first moved by Kinkizi East MP Dr Chris Baryomunsi last year, proposes a tax increase on tobacco products, prohibition of the sale and importation of duty-free tobacco products, a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and the ban on selling tobacco products to minors.

The bill also proposes the establishment of a tobacco control committee under the Office of the Prime Minister, with the ministry of Health as the secretariat. When enacted into law, it will be called the Tobacco Control Act, replacing the Tobacco Control and Marketing Act of 1967 and the National Environment (Control of smoking in public places) regulations of 2004.

Launching a public awareness and advocacy campaign against tobacco, MPs under the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Non-Communicable Diseases (PFNCD) agreed to work with the ministry of Health to ensure the anti-tobacco bill is passed into law. The launch, on Tuesday, was marked with a march from the ministry of Health to Chogm gardens opposite Parliament under the theme, 'Tobacco is addictive, harms health and kills; say no to tobacco!'

PFNCD's Chairperson Benny Namugwanya Bugembe said the bill would have been passed last year if it weren't for the numerous debates on the oil bill and the unusual double special session for fallen Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda. In addition to the bill, the government is also moving to protect the public from secondhand smoke by amending laws on public smoking. According to the minister of state for Health, Sarah Opendi public places that fail to abide by laws on secondhand smoke will be closed.

Major stakeholders targeted for the campaign include; the ministries of Trade, Tourism, Agriculture and Local Government and civil society organizations. The ministry of Agriculture will be in charge of seeking alternative livelihoods for tobacco growers. Several farmers in Yumbe and Zombo districts have already destroyed their tobacco farms to make way for food crops.

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