Media sensitised on tobacco control law in Uganda

Jul 1, 2014

Henry Zakumumpa, a Public Health expert and lecturer with the School of Public Health at Makerere University, speaking to journalists at the sensitisation meeting (Photo Credit: UNDP 2014).

KAMPALA - Tobacco use is the single risk factor associated with all major non-communicable diseases such as lung cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.

Addressing journalists at a half-day advocacy and sensitisation meeting on the new Tobacco Control Bill of 2014, Henry Zakumumpa, said tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally, and has claimed more lives than HIV and AIDS, Tuberclosis and Malaria combined.

“75 percent of all patients with oral cancers reported in Mulago hospital in 2008 had a history of tobacco smoking”, said Zakumumpa, a Public Health expert and lecturer with the School of Public Health at Makerere University.

Globally, 73% of cancers result from cigarette smoking and second hand smoking, according to the World Health Organisation, and the situation is not different for Uganda where use of tobacco products has risen over the last few years to epidemic-like proportion. According to the 2011 Uganda demographic health survey, tobacco use among adults (15 to 54 years) is at 15 percent for males and 3% for female, while among youth both in and out of school is at 17.3%.

Richard Baguma, Coordinator, Uganda Health Communication Alliance, urged the media to increase their advocacy against tobacco use as it posses grave danger to both smokers and non-smokers, as well as violating the economic and social rights of women, men and children.

“The media is the right partner to market the Tobacco Control Bill because the Tobacco Industry uses the media widely to market tobacco and its products,” added John Amanya, Programmes Coordinator, at the Uganda National Tobacco Control Association.

The Tobacco Control Bill 2014, sponsored by Hon. Chris Baryomunsi, the Member of Parliament for Kinkizi West in South Western Uganda, was presented to Parliament in February 2014, and subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Sessional Committee on Health for scrutiny and further public consultation. Among others, the Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling, promotion, advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products, and the distribution and public use of tobacco products. It also seeks to protect the right to health and the right to life of tobacco users and non-users as fundamental human rights.

Since last year, the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) has spearheaded civil society advocacy efforts  to create awareness against tobacco use and build momentum and public support for the enactment of the Tobacco Control Bill 2014 in conformity with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Uganda ratified in 2007. A number of engagements have been held with policy makers, the civil society, media, and grassroots communities including tobacco farmers. The Bill, if passed, will lead to greater enforcement of the Environmental Regulations – Control of Smoking in Public Places Regulations enacted in 2004 and which prohibits smoking in public places including workplaces, hospitals, schools, prisons, theatres, stadiums, and public transportation.

The half-day media sensitisation workshop held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, was organised by the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) with support from the United Nations Development Programme Country Office, and was attended by over 40 journalists from the print, broadcast and online media.

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