The World Health Organization (WHO) has presented an award recognizing Ethiopia's House of People's Representatives (HPR) legislative actions it passed to ban tobacco smoking indoors and in public places in Ethiopia.
It is to be recalled that in February 2019, the House endorsed the anti-tobacco law [Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation No. 1112/2019] as a step forward but needs to be complemented by higher taxes.
Four months after the endorsement, WHO officials presented the recognition to House Speaker, Tagesse Chafo, during the regular session of the House held on Tuesday.
The new law requires 100 percent smoke-free public and work places, bans tobacco adverts and promotions, restricts the sale of flavored tobacco products and mandates pictorial warning labels covering 70 percent of the front and back of all tobacco products.
The law also bans the sale of heated tobacco products, e-cigarettes, shisha, and prohibits tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21.
In addition, smoking and the use of any tobacco product is also prohibited in outdoor areas of schools and universities, government facilities, youth centers, and amusement parks, among other places.
Furthermore, it stipulates that anyone who seeks to smoke cigarettes, to smoke at least 10 meters further away from a door or window.
The law has designated penalties for anyone who violates the provision ranging from a three month imprisonment to financial punishments ranging from ETB 1000 to 10,000. The law similarly imposes strict rules on alcohol use and commercial advertisements as well.
The occasion was conducted in the presence of WHO representative Palu Maynuka (PhD) and Health Minister Amir Aman (MD).
Receiving the recognition, Tagesse said that this recognition is one testimony to the House's efforts in enacting important legislatives that would benefit the people and the country.
After the recognition ceremony, a billboard which depicts smoking free areas were unveiled in the premises of the Parliament by the House Speaker and the WHO Representative.
According to Tobacco Atlas, every year, more than 16,800 Ethiopians are killed by tobacco-related diseases. Still, more than 18,000 children (10-14 years old) and over two million adults (15 years and above) continue to use tobacco each day.
According to a study done by the American Cancer Society, tobacco consumption in Africa excluding South Africa, increased by almost 70 percent between 1990 and 2010. The number of African smokers could grow by 40 percent by the year 2030, the study predicts.
Ethiopia is not the first country to impose a ban, but is one of the few to act on the law. Kenya's capital Nairobi has designated smoking cabins, with smoking on the streets being illegal, although the rule is widely flouted.
Several African countries have a complete ban on smoking in public areas. Most recently, Uganda passed a law banning smoking within 50 meters (160 feet) of any public place -- according to WHO, but such laws are rarely implemented.