By Jumah Nsubuga
As the parliamentary committee on health is in process of hearing views from different stakeholders on the Tobacco Control Bill 2014, tobacco growers from Kihihi tobacco growing area in Kanungu district have urged parliament to drop the tobacco control bill because its intention is to stop people from growing tobacco.
The Angry farmers led by their chairman Nelson Ishmael Tiboruhanga told MPs sitting on health committee chaired by Kaberamaido MP Kenneth Omona that, the mover of the bill brought the bill in bad heart, and did not consult them as tobacco growers.
“As tobacco growers, the bill has disorganized the entire community and we are much aggrieved about it since its intention is to abolish the growing of tobacco. We should have been consulted as tobacco growers since almost the whole community in Kanungu depend on tobacco. Adding that parliament should bear with tobacco growers especially those in Kanungu district and stop this bill” Said Mr Tiboruhanga the chairman of Kinkizi Tobacco Association.
“I have been a tobacco farmer for over 21years.I depend on tobacco growing and I have managed to look after my family due to tobacco growing. The burning of tobacco growing in Uganda meaning that Iam likely to become jobless. I therefore urge parliament to immediately stop the plans of abolishing tobacco growing in Uganda” Said one of the tobacco growers who attended the meeting. The farmers also handled a petition over to the committee boss Kenneth Omana urging parliament to listen to their players. The petition was signed by over 700 tobacco growers from Kihihi tobacco growing area in Kanungu district.
Meanwhile MPs on the health committee urged tobacco farmers not to be worried since the intention of the bill is not to abolish tobacco growing neither smoking but to control public health.
“This bill is not intended to burn tobacco growing but to control public health since tobacco is a lead cause of lung cancer, heart diseases among other diseases. Smoking is also a serious health hazards to why it should be regulated” Said Butebo County MP Dr Mutono.
“This bill is not tackling health issues of growing tobacco but instead is tackling the health issue of smoking tobacco. We are not stopping you from growing tobacco but regulating the use of tobacco” Said Oyama South MP Betty Among.
The mover of the bill Dr Chris Baryomunsi confirmed to tobacco farmers that, the bill provides the regulations of smoking with the aim of protecting harmful effects of tobacco use adding that the bill is not targeting the people of Kanungu but for the entire country. “We are not processing this bill to hart anybody but protecting the lives of Ugandans” He added.
On to the same development, Kampala city traders association (KACITA) has confirmed to the committee that, they are in support of the bill if the contentious clauses are deleted.
The chairman of KACITA Everest Kayondo while submitting KACITA views before the committee about the bill said that “We want cigarettes be allowed to be sold in open spaces adding that, the bill should only restrict places of smoking not selling cigarettes”. The secretary general of KACITA Mr Ephraim Ssentamu Kaddu also said that “We have read through the bill but some sections are not fair in the area of trade and should be eliminated like the section which burns the sale of cigarettes.
Also section 15(3) and 15(1) should be deleted. Section 15 (1) says that a person shall not sell, arrange to sell, enable facilitate a sale or buy tobacco or tobacco product in a place specified in the fourth schedule of this act. While 15 (3) says a person shall not display or make visible a tobacco product at any point of sale, other than being visible momentarily at the time of sales transaction.
Elsewhere Uganda tobacco services a new company dealing in tobacco also supported the bill.
Mr Robert Keelson the managing director of Uganda tobacco services while submitting his views before the committee confirmed to MPs that they are in support of the bill adding that as new comers in tobacco business in Uganda, they will handle tobacco industry in a respective manner. Our aim is to ensure farmers enjoy tobacco growing as well as concentrating on other crops. “We support the bill since its content is to save public health” Mr Keelson noted.