KAMPALA – The minister of Health, has Friday, April 26, launched the National Tobacco Control Committee (NTCC), warning the committee to desist from being bribed by the tobacco industry.
Minister Jane Ruth Aceng while inaugurating the Committee said: “This Committee takes on a heavy responsibility. We are aware of the power of the tobacco industry and I implore you all to take on this role with utmost diligence and commitment.”
“The tobacco industry is looking for loopholes. We have to follow the law and tighten these loopholes to tackle this problem because they are not resting,” she said.
The NTCC will supervise the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2015, in accordance with the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
The Committee will also coordinate and monitor tobacco control interventions and advise the minister of Health on policies and measures relating to tobacco control legislation and implementation of the act. Furthermore, the committee will monitor the interference and insulation of tobacco-related policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Dr. Aceng further mentioned that Uganda is a signatory to the WHO FCTC, an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the rights of all people to the highest standard of health.
She commended WHO and Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health for their support to the ministry of Health to tackle tobacco consumption in the country.
She appealed to Ugandans to accord the committee all the support to ensure the implementation of this law. The law is for public protection and should be respected by everybody because when we are healthy then our economy will grow immensely.
The World Health Organisation Representative in Uganda, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, congratulated the ministry upon establishing the NTCC adding that “tobacco is the only product which when used according to manufacturer’s instructions kills 50% of its consumers.”
Dr. Yonas reported that in January 2019, WHO trained national tax experts with an emphasis on effective tax implementation models.
He, therefore, expected the experts will help the government develop a tax regime that is deterrent enough to protect the vulnerable children and other financially disadvantaged groups in society. This, he said, calls for increased taxation to a level that will protect public health in addition to generating revenue which can be used to treat tobacco-related illnesses among other government priorities. Taxation is one of the most effective interventions for tobacco control recommended by WHO considering that for every 10% increase in excise tax, tobacco use reduces by 2 to 8%.
Presently, tobacco use is the main underlying risk factor for the four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), that is, high blood pressure, lung diseases, diabetes and cancer. In Uganda, over 75% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to tobacco use. Besides, tobacco use has adverse health, social and economic consequences at all levels of society.
The 2014 NCD Risk Factor Survey revealed that in Uganda 1 in 10 people is a current tobacco user. The 2011 Global youth tobacco survey further showed that in Uganda, 10.5% of students, 11.7% of boys, and 9.4% of girls aged 13 to 15 years currently use tobacco products. Globally, tobacco consumption kills 7 million people per year.
The coordinator of Uganda Health Communication Alliance, also a member, Mr. Richard Baguma explained that the Committee is more than willing to work to counter the industry because the issue of public health is critical here, describing the fight as a bloody one.