On March 12, 2004, government passed the National Environment (Control of Smoking in Public Places) Regulations 2004.
Proprietors of public places in Fort portal have failed to enforce the ban on smoking in public places. In 2002, the High Court banned smoking in public places and asked the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to enforce the ban. On March 12, 2004, government passed the National Environment (Control of Smoking in Public Places) Regulations 2004.
According to the law, no person shall smoke a tobacco product or hold a lighted tobacco product in an enclosed, indoor area of a public place, the owner of a public place should also designate rooms in which smoking is allowed. The law further states that the owner of a public place or any public service vehicle or other public transport where smoking is prohibited shall post clearly legible signs, prominently, stating that smoking is not permitted.
According to the law, owners of public places who fail to enforce the ban are liable, on conviction, to a fine of between Shs 50,000 and Shs 300,000, while a person who smokes in a prohibited area pays a fine of between Shs 20,000 and Shs 100,000. However in Fort Portal, the law is not being enforced. People continue to smoke in public putting the health of the non-smokers at risks.
Some of the public places like bars and restaurants visited by Uganda Radio Network, there were no designated zones for smokers and there are no signs stating smoking isn’t allowed. Frank Mujungu, the manager Rwenzori Hotel says that he is aware there is a law banning smoking in public places but he can’t enforce it because he will be chasing away the customers.
Mujungu says that they advise their customers to smoke from outside. However there is no barrier to separate the outside from the rest of the bar. Gerald Bagonza, Fort Portal law enforcement officer says that he is aware people smoke in public places, but can’t enforce because he is ignorant about the law. He says that since it was implemented twelve years ago, they have never been sensitized on the law.
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Moses Muhumuza, a resident of Fort Portal says that the light penalties imposed on owners of public places or smokers, partly explains why the law isn’t adhered to. He says that the fines can be afforded by the culprits. He proposes an amendment of the law to include a jail term like six months or a year for the offenders.
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In a telephone interview, David Okiring an enforcement officer at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) says that enforcement of the law is hindered by the lack of resources for personnel supposed to enforce the law. Okiring however says that enforcement should also be done by the local governments and not left to the authority.
According to the World Health organization, tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of whom more than 5 million are users and ex users and more than 600 000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030.
world health organization