The President’s signature means that the Tobacco Control Bill, 2014, that criminalises display of cigarettes at the point of sale, advertising, promotion and sponsorships of tobacco companies.
The law also bans the sale of cigarettes to people under the age of 21 and criminalises the sale of cigarettes in public places like educational institutions, cinemas, public transport and health facilities.
Tabled as a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament by Kinkizi East MP Chris Baryomunsi, the legislation survived a barrage of criticism from some players in the tobacco industry. With the backing of health experts and activists, Parliament on July 28 passed the Bill and appealed to President Museveni to assent to it expeditiously. The president signed the Bill into law on September 19.
Reacting to the news, Sheema District Woman MP Rosemary Nyakikongoro, who was one of the movers of the Bill, tasked the Health ministry to expeditiously implement the law saying it was in public interest.
“People were attacking us in our constituencies because when they are suffering from cancer, they cannot access treatment in Uganda yet abroad treatment is very expensive. Tobacco is one of the contributors,” Ms Nyakikongoro told Daily Monitor in an interview on Friday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says tobacco smoking causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, heart diseases, lung, throat and other cancers, which kill six million people globally a year. Of the six million deaths, five million are direct smokers while an estimated 600,000 die from exposure to second-hand smoking globally.
Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, the principal medical officer in charge of mental health and control of substance abuse at the Ministry of Health, said the President’s action is the best “gift of 2015” to Ugandans.
“The work begins now… I want to thank the President, the media and Members of Parliament for their efforts,” Dr Ndyanabangi remarked.
Ms Robina Kitungi Kaitiritimba, the executive director of the Uganda National Health User’s/Consumers Organisation, the advocacy group that has been working with MPs on the Bill, said: “Now people in public places can enjoy tobacco smoke-free environments. ”
Failure to comply with the provisions of the law could lead to punishment such as imprisonment for not more than seven years or fines of not less than Shs4.5m.