By Joyce Namutebi
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has backed the Tobacco Control Bill, 2014 which seeks to protect present and future generations from devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use and exposure.
“The UHRC welcomes the efforts made towards drafting this Bill in order to bring Uganda in line with its international obligations as per the WHO FCTC (World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), ” the commission said in its submission on the Bill to the parliamentary committee on health.
Uganda ratified the WHO FCTC treaty in June 2007 and it obliges state parties to introduce legislative measures that would regulate certain stipulated areas of tobacco control.
Already, Uganda has laws namely the Tobacco (Control and Marketing) Act and the national Tobacco Corporation Act, but UHRC contends that they are outdated, especially in light of the recent global and local developments in tobacco production, consumption and control.
UHRC submission was presented to the health committee by commissioner, Katebarirwe Amooti this week.
The Private Members Bill initiated by Kinkiizi east MP, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, also seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale, labeling, promotion, advertising, distribution, public use and sponsorship of tobacco products.
The commission supported the restriction of sale and display of tobacco products in public places contending that doing so amounts to advertising and promoting tobacco use, which would increase accessibility of the products, especially to those tobacco users who would wish to quit and the youth who are vulnerable to promotional effects of product display.
On the clause in the Bill which provides that everyone has a right to a tobacco free environment Katebarirwe said it is recognizant to Article 9(1) of the WHO FCTC, which identifies scientific evidence as having unequivocally established the fact that exposure to tobacco smoke causes disease, disability and death.
“The right to a clean and healthy environment interlinks with various human rights such as the right to life which would be violated due to exposure to tobacco and tobacco smoke, and the right to health,” Katebarirwe said.
The commission also supported a provision in the Bill on protection of minors and another on insulation of public health policies from commercial and other vested interests in the tobacco industry.
The commission, however, urged Government to come up with alternative viable economic programmes and policies for the tobacco growers in line with World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
The commission also expressed reservations on the provision in the Bill which prohibits from smoking within 100 metres from a public place and work place.
The health committee which is responsible for scrutinising the Bill and making a report to Parliament, has interfaced with several stakeholders including tobacco farmers, tobacco companies and health specialists.
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UHRC backs tobacco control Bill