The World Health Organization in collaboration with the Center for Tobacco Control in Africa and the ministry of health last week launched a study to monitor compliance with tobacco laws in Uganda.
This study will strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ugandan government’s ability to report accurate and comparable data on compliance with adopted tobacco control legislation.
In Africa, Uganda and Seychelles are taking part in the pilot study, along with five other countries globally. Sponsored by WHO, the study is aimed at assessing compliance with smoke-free laws and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, which are well-articulated in Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act 2015.
The study will employ three survey methods of collecting compliance data including: a conventional survey conducted by trained data collectors; collecting compliance data from the public through crowd-sourcing and using a mobile application; and collecting expert opinion on compliance from all over the country.
During the study launch ceremony, a mobile application to assist in data collection was also unveiled.
Named “Tobacco Spotter”, the application enables monitoring compliance in nine different scenarios covering indoor public places and different forms of media in a quick and timely manner. These include schools, public transport, restaurants, government offices, private offices, cafes and bars, media, health facilities and point-of-sale advertising.
A team of data collectors has been trained and equipped on how to use the application. They will be deployed to different regions in Uganda to collect data on tobacco law compliance.
WHO Representative in Uganda, Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, presided over the launch which took place at the Makerere University School of Public Health in Kololo.
He highlighted the general exposure of adults to tobacco smoke, which stands at 13.1%. He added that 20.4% of adults who work indoors are exposed to tobacco smoke, along with 62.3% of adults who visit bars and nightclubs.
Dr Yonas pointed out that while tobacco advertising in the mass media is low, the industry still engages in covert tobacco marketing, promotion and sponsorship of sporting events.
He pointed out that approximately seven million people die of tobacco-related diseases globally every year. “Of the seven million, Uganda loses 10,600 lives every year to tobacco-related diseases”, he noted.
Dr Yonas said that more than 10% of these deaths were due to exposure to second-hand smoke at home, workplaces and other public places.
CTCA Country Manager
Dr Jim Arinaitwe, country manager for the Center for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA), lauded WHO for launching the initiative in Uganda. He said that while a law on tobacco control had been passed in Uganda, there was minimal tracking of its implementation and progress.
“This study will thus inform and guide us on where to make adjustments in the tobacco response”, he stated.
Dr Arinaitwe appreciated the support and effort from WHO in enabling countries to make great strides in tobacco control, and complimented CTCA’s readiness to contribute to a tobacco-free Uganda.
Dr Hafsa Sentongo Lukwata who represented the Ministry of Health at the function, commended WHO and CTCA for the study: “It will give much-needed evidence and data to guide policy formulation and enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act”.
She appealed to data collectors to resist being compromised by the tobacco industry, and to be patriotic and collect accurate and reliable data.
In 2015, Uganda enacted the Tobacco Control Act, which bans smoking in all enclosed spaces accessible to the public such as hospitals and health centres, institutions of learning, offices, restaurants and many others. All forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship are also prohibited.
However, full compliance with the law is problematic in many spaces and the tobacco industry has continued with the covert promotion of tobacco. Therefore, the tobacco law compliance study is a timely and welcome intervention that will move the war on tobacco in Uganda, Africa and in the world to another level.The WHO and Center for Tobacco Control in Africa launch Pilot Project to measure Compliance with Tobacco Control Legislation