If you walk along the streets of Kampala, chances are high that will you find a person or two smoking in a place that is considered to be a public area, for instance at a bus stop. The cigarettes that these people smoke are one of the leading tobacco products. But while the vice is against the laws of Uganda especially if done in public, people are adamant.
However, the Dean College of Health Science, School of Public Health Makerere, Dr William Bazeyo says, a study conducted by the school indicates that it is such habits that have contributed to the 73 per cent of cancer cases treated at the cancer institute.
He explains: “These cancers are found in both smokers and nonsmokers. As doctors, we have also confirmed that tobacco use affects all systems of the body like the eyes, nose, mouth, lungs and intestines among others.”
The doctor adds that the form in which tobacco is consumed does not matter. “Tobacco is bad whether inhaled, chewed or mixed in water.”
It is therefore upon this background that health ministry representatives from six African countries of Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa met last week to devise means of how the vice of tobacco usage can be curbed. Dr Bazeyo says a number of sensitisation campaigns have been conducted in different communities. He however adds that it is time for government to play its part by passing the Tobacco Control Bill 2012.
The principal medical officer, Mental Health and Control of Substance, Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, also echoes Dr Bazeyo’s view. She explains that the said legislation is a private members bill and it highlights issues such as the tax and price policies where by taxes on tobacco products are going to be increased, this is expected to affect the retail prices too so as to make it hard for people to consume such products. The bill also aims at amending the existing legislation on exposure to second hand tobacco smoke; it also proposes to institute effective measures for promoting the control of tobacco use.
“While government is still reluctant about passing the bill, statistics indicate that the number of youth who are smoking is higher than that of adults, he points out, adding: “Tobacco use among youth both in and out of school is at 17.3 per cent higher than 15 per cent for the adults as per the Global youth tobacco survey (GYTS) 2011. If nothing is done, we are headed in the wrong direction.”
Dr Ndyanabangi, explains that the youth use tobacco products because of peer pressure and the weak laws.
“The law is supposed to prohibit minors from accessing tobacco products especially cigarrates but it has failed. This is unfortunate because between nine and 15 years, children are very good at experimenting so if such products are readily available for them to consume, this is why we see such high numbers of tobacco use among the youth.”
Dr Ndyanabangi explains: “The bill is in Parliament, while most people know the effects of tobacco use, we need the law to restrict them from using tobacco. This is why we ask government and all the legislators to pass the bill. It is strong and if passed, the number of people who use tobacco will go down.”