- The government of Uganda, until now seen as soft on the tobacco industry, has announced stronger warnings against smoking will also appear on cigarette packets sold in the country.
The new warning, which is to take up a relatively big space on each cigarette packet, is to read: "Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart diseases and death."
This step towards curbing the tobacco epidemic was announced by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) as a new compulsory standard for labeling of tobacco products sold in the country. In a letter addressed to the Ministers of Trade and of Health, UNBS Executive Director Dr Terry Kahuma states that the agency intends to start implementing this warning within the next six months.
The new, stronger wording is to appear in both English and Swahili and will now replace the old warning "Cigarette smoking can be harmful to your health."
Civil society groups had for a long time criticised health authorities to be too soft on the powerful tobacco industry's lobby. They hold that the Uganda Ministry of Health years ago had "negotiated" the current "vague and meaningless" warning with British American Tobacco Uganda Ltd. For much longer than in other comparable countries, this "vague" warning had therefore been maintained.
Phillip Karugaba, spokesman of the civil rights group TEAN, commended the UNBS for finally issuing a stronger warning. But, he added, "although it is not to the standards required by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), it is a start. We now have a stronger warning to smokers."
The FCTC of which Uganda is a signatory requires warning labels to cover between 30 and 50 percent of each cigratte packet. "Countries such as Brazil and Canada have in addition included grotesque pictures of rotting teeth, dead rats and aborted fetuses to effectively warn smokers," Mr Karugaba reminded Ugandan authorities.
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