Ugandan police start enforcing anti-smoking law

Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act puts a total ban on some tobacco products including shisha, smokeless tobacco such as Kubar which is chewed and other flavoured tobacco products. Fred Muzaale from the Daily Monitor reports. 


MUKONO– The Environment Police in Mukono District have confiscated several metallic Shisha pots and smoking pipes from a major bar in Mukono town during an operation that was aimed at enforcing the Tobacco Control Act during.

The weekend operation was led by the Officer in charge of Mukono District Environment Police, Mr Robert Wowuya together with Mr Moses Talibita, the legal officer of Uganda National Health Consumer’s Organisation.

At Casablanca bar, a stone throw from Mukono Police Station, police officers pounced on drinkers, mainly students from Uganda Christian University who were smoking Shisha- a water-pipe tobacco.

Police officers impounded 15 Shisha pots and pipes although no smoker was arrested. Most of the smokers were drank and staggered as police confiscated the pots and pipes.

“We have warned bar operators against allowing people to smoke Shisha in their premises but they have refused to comply. The Tobacco Control Act, banned Shisha smoking and we are now out to enforce this law,” Mr Wowuya said.

He said the force displayed warnings at all bars but the bar operators removed them.

 Mr Wowuya said more operations would be carried out in the area. The impounded Shisha pots are being kept at Mukono police station. One of the operators of Casablanca Bar, who did not want to be named, said they had not been sensitised about the law banning Shisha smoking.

He, however, said they would comply with the law.

Mr Wowuya added that Shisha smoking is a lucrative business for bar owners since they charge Shs10, 000 per person for one smoking session. Most of the smokers are youth.

 “Shisha smoking poses a health risk to consumers and is responsible for causing tobacco related illnesses which are avoidable. If the law is followed, the health budget to treat such ailments would go down,” he said.

In September 2015, President Museveni assented to the Tobacco Control Act, which was gazetted on November 18 the same year.

The law provides for stringent measures aimed at protecting non-smokers from the health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use and exposure.

The Act puts a total ban on some tobacco products including shisha, smokeless tobacco such as Kubar which is chewed and other flavoured tobacco products.

The law also banned the production, sale and use of electronic cigarettes.

According to the law, any person who contravenes the Tobacco Control Act is liable to imprisonment of a term not less than a year or a fine of Shs420, 000 or both.

Mukono District Resident District Commissioner, Mr David Matovu warned that bars and shops that still promote Shisha smoking would be closed down.

The crackdown on shisha smokers comes after recent complaints by MPs about the delayed enforcement of the law, which came into force on May 19 this year, saying smoking in public has persisted despite its effect on both the economy and the health of the people.

The Uganda Tobacco Control Act is a fulfilment of Uganda’s obligations to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which the country signed on March 5 2004 and ratified on June 20 2007.

* This article was first published on the Daily Monitor website in Uganda on December 13, 2016.