The issue: Ruling on tobacco
Our view: Government can now implement the Tobacco Control regulations to protect more than 40 million Ugandans from the deadly health effects caused by the tobacco use.
On Tuesday, a panel of five Constitutional Court justices, in a land mark judgment, rejected a legal challenge from a multinational tobacco company, British American Tobacco (BAT-Uganda), which had sought to declare the Tobacco Control Act of 2016 unconstitutional.
The provisions of the Tobacco Control Act that BAT-Uganda had sought to be declared unconstitutional included a requirement that all indoor public places, workplaces and public transport be 100 per cent smoke-free and a ban on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years of age.
Others were pictorial health warnings covering 65 per cent of tobacco packages, a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and a ban on cigarette sales within 50 metres of educational institutions and other places where children are cared for.
But in rejecting to declare the Tobacco Control Act unconstitutional, the five justices held that there is no contention that tobacco smoking kills its users when used according to directions of the manufacturers, and that government was right to come up with a piece of legislation to protect its citizens from its adverse effects, which were conceded to by BAT-Uganda.
According to a report authored by World Health Organisation (WHO) titled: ‘Global Report Mortality attributable to Tobacco, the burden of tobacco smoking has so many adverse effects as follows:
Tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by manufacturers. It is also responsible for the death of about five million people across the world annually with many of these deaths occurring prematurely. An estimated additional 600,000 people die from effects of second-hand smoke and tobacco kills more than tuberculosis, Aids and malaria combined.
The report also stated that in the next two decades, the annual death toll from tobacco is expected to rise to more than eight million, with more than 80 per cent of those deaths projected to occur in the low and middle-income countries.
The cited adverse effects that usually result in serious healthy complications, including death, are the reason why we applaud the court for its intervention. Also, the court’s verdict will thus go a long way to protect millions of citizens, including non-smokers from the devastating consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Further, the implication of this decision is that government can now go ahead and implement the Tobacco Control regulations to protect more than 40 million Ugandans from the deadly health effects caused by the tobacco use.