Kampala. Health activists have accused media houses in the country of being the biggest violators of tobacco laws despite being aware of tobacco smoke-free work environments.
Mr Richard Baguma, the coordinator of Uganda Health Communication Alliance (UHCA), on Thursday during an award ceremony for best compliers of tobacco smoke-free environments, said their survey across the central region found only one media house had followed the law.
“It’s unfortunate that among the several media institutions in Kampala, only one media house managed to comply with the tobacco law of creating tobacco smoke-free environment, but the majority do not bother,” he said.
The Uganda Tobacco Control Act, 2015, came into force in May 2016, six months after being gazetted.
The tobacco Control Bill was passed by Parliament on July 28, 2015, and was assented to by the President on September 19, 2015.
The Act is a fulfilment of Uganda’s obligations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which the country signed on March 5, 2004, and ratified on June 20, 2007.
Mr Baguma said one of the most critical things required is the provision that directs all places, including public transport, to be 100 per cent tobacco smoke-free.
“Since the law says you must not allow anyone to smoke either at the workplace or social place, then no one is supposed to smoke within those premised and it’s very clear smoking should be away from windows, ventilators and doors and should be at least 50 metres off the premises,” he warned.
However, Mr Baguma said a couple of places have attempted to comply, although some still have provisions such as ash trays, which allow people to smoke.
He said it is against the law to have ashtrays in a public place.
“It is illegal and that is why we could find only three places in central region that could fully comply. Currently, compliance is between 60 to 70 per cent on the smoke-free environment, but the law demands 100 per cent compliance, which shows we still have a long way to go,” he warned.
Dr Hafsa Lukwata, the National Tobacco Control coordinator at Ministry of Health, said they are in final stages of issuing the tobacco smoke-free regulations.
“ We expect to issue the regulations in one month and these new regulations will help the implementation of the law and these include how smoke-free environment will be implemented, pinning up smoke signage and graphics showing bad effects of tobacco use,” she said.
Ms Lukwata said they hope the law will be self-regulatory. “I expect people to change and it should not be a big problem, especially in government institutions.”
“The law can be implemented as it is, but I think when the regulations come out next month, it will be more helpful,” she said.
The best institutions that enforced smoke-free environment and were awarded included the Uganda Management Institute, NBS television, and Cinema Magic.