The Ministry of Health has raised concern over a new cigarette brand on the market which they say risks undoing efforts so far made towards reduction of smoking in the country.
Dr Hafisa Lukwata, the Tobacco Control Focal Person in the Ministry of Health says that the ORIS cigarette, which is slim, flavoured and packaged in green colour is especially being marketed to women.
She says while the belief has generally been that there’s a reduction in cigarette smoking following the signing of a stringent law in 2015, banning smoking for those aged below twenty-one and smoking in public places, they are rather noticing that this reduction could actually be just a shift.
The doctor says apart from introducing new luring brands, there are other innovations such as what is happening in neighbouring Kenya where narcotic products are smeared on users’ bodies instead of smoking them. She fears these could already be here or will be in no time.
Commenting about this, Alex Mukasa, a legal officer at Uganda Law Society (ULS) who was actively involved in the compilation of the Tobacco Control Act 2015 said new innovations in the cigarette industry have already been banned in the law as they were anticipated including the e-cigarettes.
However, he adds that even as this law is in place, enforcement has been a challenge. He gives an example of designated smoking areas still being seen in public places including hotels while this has also been banned.
He notes that these places have no signage to show these are smoking-free areas, yet they are required to have signage clearly stipulating that they are smoking-free zones written in English, Swahili and the local language where the public place is located.
When asked about this lapse in enforcement, Lukwata said enforcement is very expensive yet their budget is limited. If they are to do enforcement drives, they are done at night and have to not only budget for fuel but also allowances for enforcers.
Meanwhile, according to a survey done by MOH in 2014 before the law was passed, 5.9 per cent of Ugandans were estimated to be smoking. When a youth survey was done, the percentage went higher to 17.9 per cent. According to Lukwata, this survey also showed that people were increasingly adopting flavoured tobacco products and smokeless options.