By Mary Karugaba
With over 13,000 Ugandans dying from tobacco related illness annually, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have asked parliament to enact a law that bans the display of tobacco products at points of sale.
They also want the law to force tobacco companies, display 75% pictorial health warning cover on the tobacco product packaging.
The officials argued that large, pictorial warning labels on tobacco packages are an essential component of a national strategy to reduce tobacco use.
Catherine Adok, a lawyer for Tobacco Control in Africa argued that research shows that large and graphic warning labels can motivate smokers to quit, discourage non-smokers from starting and keep ex-smokers from starting again.
“Pictures will help illiterate individuals get the message and they are also likely to be noticed and understood than smaller text only warnings. They are also likely to reduce the demand for tobacco products,” she argued.
Adok while giving views on the Tobacco Control Bill 2014 at Parliament argued that evidence shows that point of sale advertising and displays encourage smoking.
The head of Cancer Institute, Dr. Jackson Orem, noted that Tobacco smoking is poisonous to health and if not controlled, the country’s future population is at risk of dying from tobacco related cancers than any other disease.
“As an Institute, this Bill is going to be very important in terms of cancer control and also help us prevent the adverse effects to our people,” he said.
The Tobacco Control Bill is a private member’s Bill that was tabled to Parliament by Dr. Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkiizi West, NRM) to regulate tobacco manufacture, sponsorships and protect children from consuming cigarettes and tobacco products. It’s currently being scrutinized by parliamentary Committee on health.
Cancer Institute in Mulago, which is the only specialized referral cancer treatment center in the country, receives about 1,780 patients annually.
Of these, 24% suffer lung cancer that is related to tobacco use, 24% suffer from cancer of the esophagus related.
Dr. Possy Mugyenyi from the Center for Tobacco Control in Africa said that tobacco sale should be raised to the age of 21 years.
“Setting the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 is one of the strategy for reducing tobacco use among young people. If a man has never smoked by age 18, the odds are three to one he never will by age of 21,” he said.
Research indicates that the overall prevalence of tobacco use among youth in Uganda bellow the age of 18 years, increased from 10% in 2001 to 17 in 2011.
It also indicates that currently the prevalence of smoking in secondary school is 19% and the one for tertiary institution is 35%.