• Uganda has enforced tough new laws on smoking and tobacco sales with smokers contravening the law at risk of being fined $60 or jailed for up to two months.

    The new law requires smokers to maintain a distance of at least 50 meters away from public spaces such as hospitals, schools and taxi parks.

    Those who prefer electronic cigarettes and flavored tobacco for water pipes and shisha are not in luck either. Sale of these items, which have become popular in bars and clubs in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has also been banned.

    Further, the anti-smoking rules have also banned the sale of single cigarettes and put in place stringent measures on labeling, advertising and selling tobacco to under 21s.

    Law aimed at preventing people from smoking

    The Ugandan government is concerned by the rise of health problems linked to tobacco use such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure, hence, the introduction of the stringent measures.

    The government said it does not anticipate jailing many people breaking the new laws. It hopes that the law will prevent people from smoking in the first place.

    According to a study by the American Cancer Society, tobacco consumption in the Africa, excluding South Africa, increased by almost 70 percent between 1990 and 2010. With increased tobacco-related non-communicable diseases like cancer, governments are introducing measures to discourage smoking and combat such diseases.

    In Ethiopian public smoking is banned in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa and Ethiopia’s Mekelle city in the north. The Ethiopian law prohibits smoking in public places including in social places like bars, restaurants, schools, sports venues, as well as places of worship. The hospitals, schools and health centers are also required to be smoke-free.

    The Kenyan Tobacco Control Act came into effect in 2008, even though it was introduced in the country in 2006. According to the local law like in Uganda and Ethiopia, people who like to indulge in a puff are restricted from smoking in some places including their homes. In addition to offices, bars, streets, theaters and places of worship, smoking is also banned in markets and parks.

    Although Uganda restricted smoking in public places in 2004, the ban was not strictly enforced, according to AFP News Agency. The new laws included the Tobacco Control Act build on a ministerial directive from 2004.

    There are more than a billion smokers worldwide, but almost 80% of them live in low and middle-income countries where the “burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest”, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Other African nations implementing the tobacco control law in line with WHO framework include Tanzania, which banned smoking in public areas in 2003. The Tanzanian government called for setting up of special smoking areas at places of work. It is also prohibited Tobacco advertising on radio, TV and in newspapers.

    Rwanda’s efforts in prohibiting smoking in public areas have been hailed. The country was ranked second after Kenya in the East African Community (EAC) in the implementation of tobacco control law, according to the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA).

    Image credit: Faiswal Kasirye