By Patrick Jaramogi
INCREASING taxes on tobacco products is the only sure way of curbing smoking in the country, the health minister has said.
â€œTobacco is a killer and leads to environmental degradation. The finance ministry should increase taxes on tobacco products then people will find it expensive to smoke,â€ Stephen Malinga said in a speech read by Jacinta Amandua, the commissioner for health services.
Amandua said there was an increase in the number of tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis as a result of smoking.
He was officiating at the commemoration of the â€˜World No Tobacco Dayâ€™ this week at Hotel Triangle in Kampala.
The people of West Nile, who are the leading growers of tobacco, should be given alternatives to sustain their livelihoods so they could stop growing tobacco, the minister said.
â€œI am saddened that people are still smoking in public places even after the ban of smoking in public places was imposed,â€ he said.
He urged the National Environmental Management Authority to step up its efforts in implementing the ban.
â€œWe celebrate the â€˜World No Tobacco Day â€˜every year, but what have we achieved in the fight against smoking? 90% of the vendors on Kampala streets sell cigarettes, an indication that many are still smoking.â€
Malinga said the warning on cigarette packs should be changed to, â€œcigarette smoking causes cancerâ€ from the current â€œcigarette smoking can be harmful to your health.â€
Joachim Saweka, the country representative of the World Health Organisation, called upon the Government to ban indirect and direct cigarette advertisements.
â€œThe law on public smoking should be implemented and enforced. An urgent ban is needed on cigarette advertising,â€ he said.
Sheila Ndyanabangi, a doctor from the health ministryâ€™s mental health programme, said women were dying silently due to smoking.
â€œWomen tend to hide when smoking and so canâ€™t get counselling because we donâ€™t know how many are smoking in the country,â€ Ndyanabangi said.
She said the number of young girls smoking as a sign of fashion is on the increase. The theme for this year was â€œGender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women.â€