The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year, including around 1.2 million deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke (Global Burden of Disease database) Washington DC: Institute of Health Metrics 2009 IHME accessed 17th July 2021.) Tobacco is also the only legally available consumer product that kills people when it is used entirely as intended. It is the single greatest preventable cause of death in the world today, killing up to half of the people who use it.
Tobacco seriously threatens sustainable development in the world’s poorest nations through its impact on human health, high economic costs, and environmental damage due to massive land clearing and extensive felling of trees. In Uganda, tobacco-growing areas are among the poorest regions in the country. Scientific evidence has proved that tobacco farmers suffer from green leaf disease caused by the penetration of tobacco compounds into the skin of farmers while handling the tobacco leaves.
Tobacco use has remained a significant public health challenge in Uganda and a leading cause of non-communicable diseases including heart diseases and premature deaths. Tobacco use is regulated by the Tobacco Control Act, 2015. Section 16 of the law prohibits the sale of tobacco products in specific public places and within 50 meters of those places, bans electronic cigarettes, waterpipe tobacco delivery systems, smokeless tobacco, and flavored tobacco products, prohibits the sale of single cigarette sticks and bans prominent display of tobacco products at the point of sale. Section 17 of the law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to and by persons below 21 years. Even when the law is in place, tobacco is still used in various forms including smoked and smokeless tobacco.
Commemoration of the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2022:
The World Health Organization (WHO) member states created the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. In 1987, the World Health Assembly (WHA) passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for 7 April 1988 to be “a world no-smoking day.” In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May.
The Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) joins Uganda and the world to celebrate World No Tobacco Day and to mark 35 years since its inception in 1987. We are committed to informing the public about the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what the World Health Organization (WHO) is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.
Given that this 2022 year’s theme is “Tobacco: Threat to our environment”, we need to be more environmentally conscious as a country, choose more sustainable products, and step up our legislation including implementing and strengthening existing schemes to make tobacco producers more responsible for the environmental and economic costs of dealing with tobacco waste products.
The fact that the cost of tobacco use in Uganda exceeds the benefits, justifies government intervention to control and combat tobacco use in the country and protect youth from industry manipulation. We call upon the Government to further prevent the future generation from tobacco and nicotine use and enforce Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act 2015’s stringent measures that need enforcement.
Call to action:
“Does it make business sense, if your product killed 8 million people especially when it is addictive??? Wouldn’t you be targeting a new generation each year to face the consequences of using the harmful product???”
As advocates for tobacco control in Uganda, we implore the government this World No Tobacco Day in its non-delegable duty- that cannot be outsourced to a third party to:
• Continue to support the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2015, the Tobacco Control Regulations, and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
•Support activities that promote healthy lifestyle choices and encourage the public to avoid the use of tobacco and related products.
• Educating members of the public themselves to support the Tobacco Control cause through complying with the tobacco control and public health measures in place.
• Create within the National budget a vote to finance the implementation of nationwide tobacco control programming.
• Establish a Tobacco Control Fund that sources funds from development partners and taxes from the Tobacco industry.