A coalition has been formed to champion a campaign aimed at fighting tobacco growing and consumption in Bunyoro Kitara kingdom.
Dubbed ‘Bunyoro Tobacco Control Coalition’, the alliance is charged with mobilisation of stakeholders to sensitise the communities about the health and socio-economic shortcomings associated with tobacco growing, consumption and any other form of exposure to it.
At a one day sensitisation workshop organised by the Ministry of Health, Mr David Timbigamba the Hoima District Drug Inspector, was elected chairperson of the coalition.
In his closing remarks at the workshop, Mr Timbigamba noted that tobacco contributes greatly to the psycho-active substances embraced mainly by the youths in the region.
“Tobacco goes ahead to affect almost all parts of the body through the nerves causing irreversible health complications. I welcome all stakeholders in this wave of sensitisation,” said Mr Timbigamba.
Hajji Burhan Kyakuhaire, the Special Assistant on Cultural Affairs in the office of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister said the kingdom is highly in support of efforts to control tobacco farming basing on its record of causing food insecurity and health complications.
“Our King Dr Solomon Gafabusa Iguru has been discouraging his subjects from tobacco farming advising them to focus on maize, coffee, rice and other crops that not only bring in cash but also enable them to have food security. That is still the stand of the kingdom,” said Mr Kyakuhaire.
Mr Nicholas Busobozi from the Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO) who represented Civil Society Organisations said tobacco farming has also played a big role as far as promoting child labour is concerned in Bunyoro.
Dr Hafsa Lukwata, the Ag. Commissioner for Mental Health and Control of Substance Abuse at the ministry of health observed that the campaign against tobacco in Uganda has always been frustrated by conflicting view points on tobacco by different government agencies.
“When we speak on the health perspective, people from the ministry of trade try to silence us on ground that tobacco farming and trade contributes greatly to the economy. You can only understand this after visiting the records at the Mulago Cancer Institute and analyse the expenditures caused by tobacco related complications. It is three times higher than what tobacco brings in taxes,” she revealed.
According to her, the fight against tobacco growing must be heightened because it is killing generations and impoverishing the country.
She tipped parents and caretakers to monitor their children because there are many emerging forms of tobacco consumption besides the tradition tobacco smoking with same effects.
Ms Lukwata cited E-cigarettes which is hard to identify due to the modernisation involved.
“It is glamorous with flavours and some produce no smoke at all but equally affects health,’ she said.
Ms Patience Butesi, a Tobacco Control Programme Officer at the Ministry of Health urged stakeholders to popularise the Tobacco Control Act of 2016 as a basis keeping the community aware of the legal consequences of tobacco consumption alongside the horrendous health ones.
According to the Act, cigarette smoking is prohibited in public places including hotels, bars and hospitals.
It also bans engagement of children in tobacco related works bearing in mind that in this case they refer to all those below 21 years of age.
Tobacco companies are not supposed to advertise their products by any means available or else they stand penalties.
An individual guilty of tobacco consumption in public or company is liable to a fine not less than Shs200,000 or a jail term not less than six months. For companies, the fine goes up to Shs200m.
Ms Butesi implored the police and all the local authorities to help implement the Act because now there is no excuse.
She added that Uganda is obliged to fight tobacco and its effects after signing the World Health Organisatiosn (WHO’s) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2007.
Mr Julius Allan Hkaiza, the Albertine Region Police Spokesperson, appreciated that there exists a big knowledge gap about the Tobacco Control Act both among the public and the law enforcers.
He called upon different stakeholders to heighten sensitisation campaigns stating that police are ready to take action against whoever breaks the law.
The officials from the health ministry launched dissemination of sensitisation posters that leaders and stakeholders in Bunyoro will use to sensitise the community.