By Juliet Nalwooga
Uganda has been ranked the third best country in the world in regard to effectively regulating tobacco industries.
The latest ranking by the Global Tobacco Industry Interference index 2020 produced by the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), pegs Uganda 3rd after France and Brunei respectively.
The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index is a universal survey on how governments across the globe are responding to tobacco industry interference and protecting public health policies from commercial interests of tobacco industries as required under the World Health Organization.
Brunei Darussalam, a nation on the island of Borneo in two distinct sections surrounded by Malaysia and the South-China Sea took the overall lead of the best Tobacco industry interference country while in Africa Uganda came first in 14 countries followed by Kenya at 9th position.
Ethiopia then followed in the 10th, Nigeria 15th, Sudan 19, Ghana 20th, in the second 10-19 group category score.
Other participating African countries included South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Zambia.
According to the executive director for the Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO) a health rights NGO, Ms. Robinah Kaitirimba, said although Uganda was globally recognised for its robust anti-tobacco legislation and policies, there are still some gaps that need to be bridged.
In her response regarding the report, she said that the Tobacco Control Act prohibits any benefits to the Tobacco Industry but government recently sought a supplementary budget of approximately Shs11.2b (about 3.08m USD) to compensate tobacco farmers who were demanding pay from two tobacco companies that is: Nimataback Ltd and Continental Tobacco.
She also noted that government needs to improve on its transparency policy while interacting with tobacco industries.
While speaking at the national launch for the same report organised by UNHCO in Kampala on Thursday, Dr Victoria Walusansa, the deputy executive director, Uganda Cancer Institute, said they are registering an increase in mouth related cancers especially from the youth who have made it a lifestyle to smoke tobacco products like ‘shisha’.
Likewise, the executive director, Uganda Cancer Society, Mr. Paul Ebusu, was of the view that there is a need to carry out more sensitsation about the dangers of tobacco amongst the youth if the country is to avoid a bigger burden caused by tobacco smoking
“Traditionally we used to think that only lung cancer results from smoking tobacco but there are several other cancers associated with tobacco smoking. The sad part is that we are seeing youth, especially young girls taking up smoking. We cannot manage a fully blown epidemic in form of tobacco induced Non-Communicable diseases.” Mr. Ebusu noted.
Dr. Charles Oyoo, the commissioner Non-Communicable Diseases at the health ministry, revealed that cardiovascular diseases, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases are currently the leading cause of premature deaths (deaths before clocking 70 year) in the country standing at 22%, and the rate of smoking countrywide is stagnating at 3.3% since 2019.
In 2015, Parliament passed the Anti Tobacco law, restricting on the distribution, sale, supply and use of tobacco products by the population. The law also protects the environment from effects of tobacco production and consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, all aimed at reducing on the tobacco deaths.
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