Over 3.5 million hectares of land lost to Tobacco annually

Dr. Charles Olaro who is the Director of Curative Services at the Ministry of Health revealed that at least 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed for tobacco growing anually. “Deforestation for tobacco plantations promotes soil degradation and failing yields or the capacity for the land to support the growth of any other crops or vegetation,” he said

This was during an anti-tobacco crusade held Tuesday in Entebbe Municipality to mark the World No Tobacco Day under this year’s theme ‘tobacco a threat to our environment’. A group of about 100 anti-tobacco campaigners wearing white polos and red caps inscribed ‘Tobacco Free UG” matched the busy streets of Kitoro (downtown Entebbe) while collecting cigarette butts, residues and wrappings.

While delivering the keynote address in the stead of State Minister of Health (Primary Health Care) Margaret Muhanga, Olaro said the amount of chemicals and fertilizers needed for tobacco plantation render the land useless for other functions “Tobacco growing requires use of  chemicals which affect the soils. One cannot grow any other crops in land that has been used to grow tobacco.” he said

Olaro furthermore highlighted the dangers of tobacco consumption. “Over 7000 toxic chemicals are produced from secondhand smoke which pollutes the environment” he noted

Entebbe Municipality Deputy Mayor, Charles Kabwama revealed that they are stepping up plans to have a total ban on tobacco products in the Municipality. “Tobacco products like cigarettes, Kuber, shisha, and e-cigarettes are not only bad for the consumers but for the environment as well, we need to mount a total ban on the sale and use of such products.” he said

Kabwama who also doubles as the Municipality Secretary for Health said the Entebbe leadership is exploring the possibility of adopting the Tobacco Control Act into an ordinance.

“We are the gateway of Uganda, it falls upon us to set the trend on tobacco restrictions to protect our citizens and the wonderful environment that we cherish and love to enjoy,

“Tobacco is a leading pollution agent in Uganda today and as well the residues are a danger to the environment, we need to stand firm on this and become a model leader city in this respect.” Kabwama revealed

Dr.Hafsa Lukwata who is the ag. Assistant Commissioner of Mental Health and Control of Substance Use at the ministry of Health revealed that the major problem stalling their progress is public’s compliance with the law.

“Five years down the road after the ban of shisha, bars and hangouts still sell, our enforcement teams can’t get to every corner but bar operators need to come to terms with the consequences,

“The bags and cigarette butts that remain after one has consumed their tobacco are actually harmful to our environment, the residue remains in that plastic and spongy form which is dangerous for the soil.” Lukwata said

Lukwata also underscored the need for hospitality places such as hotels to enforce smoking restrictions for a better experience. “Hotels and public places should be declared none smoking zones and signage should be mounted as per the law.” she said

According to a report by Uganda Tobacco Atlas, at least 7400 people die due to complications related to tobacco every year.

A breakdown of the Tobacco Control Act of 2015

  • 100% smokefree public areas: smoking is not permitted within 50 meters of public spaces
  • Complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS), as well as on cigarette pack displays at the point of sale
  • No sale of cigarettes in public places such as healthcare facilities, cinemas, police stations, prisons, or within 50 meters of educational institutions or places where children are cared for
  • No sale of tobacco products to any person under 21 years of age
  • No sale of duty-free tobacco products
  • Complete ban on shisha (waterpipes), electronic cigarettes and chewable tobacco products
  • Large pictorial health warnings, covering 65% of the pack to inform the public of the dangers of tobacco

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