Tobacco is linked to most of the cancers and Non-Communicable diseases (NCDS) and kills nearly 13,500 people in Uganda and over 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke globally.
“Tobacco is the only product that kills half its consumers and is the only legal product that kills non-users,” Andrew Kwizera from Campaign for Tobacco free kids said.
Kwizera was on Friday speaking during a training for policemen from the Narcotics desks of different police stations namely; Kira, Jinja Road, Mukono and the Central Police Station.
He explained that with knowledge on the effects of tobacco use, avoiding its consumption is the single most preventable cause of death among adults.
Kwizera said that as a result the Uganda Police should enforce the Tobacco Control Act 2015 as the next step in the Tobacco Free Uganda campaign.
“Currently, Uganda has the strongest tobacco control act in the region accented to by the president so we need to enforce it and ensure that those who break the law are prosecuted,” Mable Kukunda, the Advocacy officer at Uganda National Health Consumers Organisation (UNHCO).
Superintendent of Police Kenneth Muheirwe from the Kampala Metropolitan police agreed that the police should enforce the law however he said that they face challenges like lack of specific standards.
“We understand that smoking is dangerous to our community but we do not have standards to guide us as we arrest people,” he said.
Muheirwe noted that for starters the law does not totally ban the growing of tobacco or smoking of cigarettes. This makes it difficult for law enforcers to understand who should really be arrested.
Section 16 (2) of the Tobacco Control Act 2015 bans the import, manufacture, distribution, processing, selling of electronic nicotine delivery system, water pipe tobacco delivery system and a smokeless or flavoured tobacco product like Kuber.
However David Mutende a government analyst at the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory (GAL) stated that currently Uganda adheres to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards but the problem is with monitoring.
Responding to Muheirwe’s concern Kukunda said that UNHCO is working with the Uganda National Standards Bureau (UNBS) to set standards on what the legal tobacco should contain and how it should be packaged in line with the tobacco control act.
The police also mentioned other challenges like conflicts with the business community and delay of results from GAL to produce as evidence in court in order to persecute those who break the law.
“People who run these bars that sell shisha think that we are unnecessarily interfering with their business; they think that it is a police enterprise to line up our pockets,” Superintendent of Police Eliau Moses Osega from Jinja Road Police Station said.
Pamela Orokot, the state Attorney at City Hall cautioned Police to be careful in the way they interpret the law because it affects prosecutions.
She also advised them against handling evidence from their operations to curb public smoking without gloves.