By Kabuye Ronald
The Uganda Health Communication Alliance (UHCA) on Thursday released a report that exposed the intermediary of big tobacco industry and how they serve the interest of the industry in Uganda in total disregard and contravention of the available laws that include the Tobacco control act 2015.
According to the report findings dubbed “The Big Tobacco Allies”: the tobacco industry indirectly advertises tobacco and its products using influencers through music, film, posters/ billboards and social media platforms.
They also use politicians to push their agenda with a claim that tobacco control law is ineffective and alleging that the habit of smoking is a personal choice and one’s right.
The tobacco industry uses allies to undertake environment conservation projects. The report implicates the Tropical Biodiversity Association and Earth Watch Institute to have collaborated with the British American tobacco to undertake a project on sustainable forest management in Uganda.
The Tobacco industry also creates partnerships with Non-Governmental Organizations and hide behind corporate social responsibility initiatives to polish its image and promote its products.
According to the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) over 38 Ugandans die every day due to tobacco related illness and it costs government UGX 108.05 billion (USD 41.56 million) to treat tobacco attributable illness in Uganda.
The report recommends that all pro tobacco control and public health should advocate for the full implementation of the tobacco control law and its regulations, prosecute the tobacco industry and front groups particularly public officials who are in breach of the law, raise awareness and condemn the evil actions of associating with tobacco industry, expose and counter the publicity generated by the tobacco industry through front groups.
The report also recommends the education of masses especially the youth who are mainly maliciously targeted by the industry about the dangers of tobacco use and promote the incredible benefits of the tobacco control.
Speaking at the launch, the chairperson of the tobacco control committee in the office of the Prime Minister Boaz Musiimenta said that they going to reach out to the regulatory bodies of the influencers, artists and non-government organizations as a way of putting a stop to the illegality of promoting the tobacco industry.
The Acting assistant commissioner in charge of mental health and control of substance abuse at the ministry of health and the national Tobacco control focal personal, Dr Hafiswa Lukwata Ssentogo said that the report is going to go a long way to help in overcoming the hurdles created by the tobacco industry suffocating the implementation of the law.
She also appealed to the public officers to stop interacting with the tobacco industry since besides the law not allowing so, their products are lethal and going forward they will expose and prosecute those associating with the industry.
Meanwhile, the Executive secretary, African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) an organization that financed the survey, Leonce Sessou called for capacity building before urging everyone to play a role and take action.
The survey was done by a random selection of respondents from various organizations including: ministries, parliament, universities, police force, CSOs, Media, Tertiary institutions, government agencies, associations/ alliances, health facilities, hotels among others. No cash incentives was given to the respondents since the survey was voluntary. 100 people were randomly selected, 81 filled in the questionnaires.