31/05/2016 - 01:11

African health ministers vow stricter anti-tobacco laws

Senior government ministers from South Africa, Kenya and Uganda pledged Tuesday to tighten tobacco control laws in their countries by introducing plain packaging on cigarette packets, a move which came on the international World No Tobacco Day.

Plain packaging of cigarettes is a global drive aimed at discouraging the attractiveness of tobacco products by eliminating brand advertising.

In an interview with national broadcaster SABC on Tuesday, South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “No branding, no logos or colors will be allowed on cigarette packets.”

Every year on May 31, the World Health Organization and governments around the world mark the World No Tobacco Day by highlighting health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

Motsoaledi said his country also plans to impose bans on what he called subtle advertisements of tobacco products at display shelves in supermarkets and other retail shops.

“They must hide the cigarettes somewhere and only smokers should come and ask for it instead of displaying [the packs openly],” he said.

He also said the country would also abolish 25 percent of space that was given in public space to smokers in the country.

He said it was shocking that public smoking spaces also existed in hospitals. “Public smoking should not be allowed in hospitals at all,” he said.

The minister said they would also ban cigarette dispenser machines, allowing smokers to insert coins and buy the product on a self-service basis because of the danger that under-age children might buy such products.

He said cigarette packs, regardless of their brands, will be placed in a brown envelope with graphics showing the damage that the product caused.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health Dr. Cleopa Mailu also announced that his country would introduce plain cigarette packaging in its bid to discourage smokers, which leads to the deaths of at least 80 men and 38 women every week in the country.

In Kenya, an estimated 2.7 million adults and more than 230,000 children smoke tobacco.

Ugandan State Minister for Health Chris Baryomunsi also expressed his resolve to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.

“The burden of tobacco consumption is real in Uganda, and we have to deal with it and the process of legislation was one way of trying to come up with a solution to address this,” Baryomunsi said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Tobacco Control Act in September 2015, which took effect this month.

According to the global adult tobacco survey, 10 percent of Ugandans adults use tobacco, while consumption among the youth is much higher at 17 percent.

*Anadolu Agency Correspondents Andrew Ross in Nairobi-Kenya and Halima Uthman in Kampala-Uganda contributed to this story.

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