Kampala City Traders’ Association (Kacita) has thrown its weight behind those against the Tobacco Control Bill, saying some clauses are harsh.
At a press conference at Royal complex in Kampala recently, Kacita officials said they wanted some particular clauses deleted from the bill before it is passed into law. Everest Kayondo, the chairman of Kacita, described the law as “draconian and [one that] would cost Uganda business opportunities.”
He said if the bill was passed in its current form, it would cost Ugandans billions of shillings in taxes, let alone jobs to hundreds of farmers growing tobacco in north-western Uganda.
“One of the problems is that our brothers from the neighbouring countries are producing and looking at Uganda as their market,” Kayondo said, explaining of how money is flowing from the country to other markets.
The traders took issue with provision 15(1) of the bill, which notes that tobacco must not be sold half a kilometre from a public institution like a school, hospital or public office. Traders also want clause 15(3), which says tobacco packets must not be displayed in shops, revised.
“If people have invested their money, they need to sell and make a profit,” said Kayondo, who argued that the problem was not the tobacco producers but people who chose to smoke.
“Smoking is a choice that someone makes knowing all its effects,” he said.
Kayondo also said the fine of Shs 2m on distributers who violate sections of the law was too high. They want the amount reduced. Recently, Elly Karuhanga, the chairman of British American Tobacco Uganda (Batu), told parliamentarians that the company was too concerned about the effects of tobacco.
He, however, advised MPs to consider the economic gains of the trade. Tobacco fetches the country tax revenue and creates employment. In 2010/11, Uganda Revenue Authority ranked Batu the sixth largest taxpayer in the country, the latest rankings available.
And last week, MPs from west Nile, where tobacco is grown on a large scale, said the leaf would impoverish their constituents as they entirely depended on it for a living. The Tobacco Control Bill is aimed at protecting the public from messages that induce and entice people, especially the youths, to use tobacco.
It provides for a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of sports events.