By Vivian Agaba
IN an effort to combat the health hazards of tobacco consumption, government is to tighten the rules and regulations against tobacco consumption, the minister has said.
According to the minister of health Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, government has a plan in offing to accelerate reduction of tobacco use and hence reduce the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) burden in Uganda.
He noted that there is an emerging epidemic of NCDs not only in Uganda but throughout East Africa of which tobacco control is identified as the single most important risk factor.
“You may recall that in September 2011, the heads of state of UN membership met in the UN General Assembly to discuss the increasing threat posed by NCDs and agree on a joint response,”Rugunda said.
According to Rugunda, it was resolved at the summit that NCDs would require a multi sectoral response and engagement of health and non-health stakeholders, and that the global debate must translate into tangible regional and country level actions to arrest the NCD epidemic.
Rugunda made the remarks yesterday (Monday) during the East Africa Community multisectoral meeting on Implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) frame work convention on tobacco control in the East African Partner states at Speke resort Munyonyo in Kampala. The participants included experts from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, among other East African countries.
During the meeting, Jesca Eriyo the deputy secretary general of the East African community raised an alarm over increasing cases of tobacco consumption in youth especially in schools and called upon teachers, parents, school administrators and student leaders to join in the fight against this evil.
“Many youths in the country are involved in tobacco consumption in whichever form and the situation has become worse in schools, a place most people think is safe. Different stakeholders should be brought on board in order to fight the vice,” Eriyo said.
She advised that civil society organizations should be brought on board, among other stake holders so as to help in the fight against tobacco consumption which kills six million people annually worldwide.
Dr. Ahmed E. Ogwel Ouma, the World Health Organization regional adviser on tobacco control, also asked parliament of Uganda to hasten the passing of the tobacco control bill which he says has been long overdue.
“The public should also be made aware of the content of the bill and its likely consequences,” Ouma said.
According to Dr. Ouma, the bill is long overdue due to powerful influence from the tobacco industry. He therefore proposes control of the tobacco industry so that it does not interfere with the process of making the law against tobacco consumption in the country.
According to the current statistics, over 80% of cardiovascular deaths and 90% of deaths from respiratory disease that occur in developing countries are as a result of tobacco consumption. More 67%of all cancers also occur as a result of tobacco consumption.
According to research findings by WHO, the tobacco epidemic is at relatively early stage with the smoking prevalence of 30% for men and 7% for women.