The Ministry Trade, Industry and Cooperatives has called for a balance between health and economic interests within the proposed Tobacco Control Bill 2014 before it is passed into law.
The ministry noted that the tobacco industry greatly contributes to the economy with approximately Shs56 billion going directly to farmers’ pockets annually.
Mr Oule Epyanu, the senior commercial officer at theministry, said the Bill is biased on the consumption of tobacco and its health risks and does not provide any guidelines for the financial implications on the tobacco industry, thus calling for a total ban on the industry.
“Certainly, there is a need for control and regulation of the sector. It should, however, be done in a way which strikes consensus between health and trade concerns”, Mr Epyanu said, while addressing a focus group meeting organised by Uganda Human Rights Commission in Kampala last week.
He emphasised the need to respect the Tobacco (Control and Marketing) Act 1967, which was enacted to regulate tobacco production and marketing because the crop is unique in relation to other crops.
Two weeks ago, a group of 50 tobacco farmers, under the Uganda Tobacco Growers Association, petitioned Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga over the Bill.
The farmers cited Clause 49 as their main concern in the Bill, saying it will leave them vulnerable to exploitation from the tobacco companies once the Bill is passed in its current form.
At the same meeting, Terego County Member of Parliament Kassiano Wadri asked the government to provide alternative crops for tobacco farmers to enable them to transit from the crop.