Following the enactment of the Tobacco control bill in 2015 which bans smoking in public, tobacco companies have now changed tactics, introducing new products like e-cigarettes which they say are harmless because they don’t contain nicotine and emit no smoke.
Some people say these new products target trendy women who are always quick to move with new trends.
A report from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016 show that in Uganda tobacco use prevalence amongst women stands at 4.7 % compared to 15.9 % among men.
Despite Uganda having enacted the Tobacco Control Act in 2015 which sought to limit public smoking, the law remains largely on paper due to a number of challenges.
Richard Baguma the executive director of Uganda Health Communications Alliance says that the law triggered a fight between the tobacco industry and civil society organisations that spearheaded it, leading to a deadlock.
Right now, the law is being contested in court.
“People still smoke in public without been touched by anyone because it’s illegal for us to put the law into action, not until the matter is settled in court implementation in null and void,” Baguma said.
Yet before the legal battles are resolved, tobacco companies have moved fast and introduced new products which they claim are harmless compared to the traditional cigarettes.
These include e-cigarettes which use rechargeable batteries and do not contain nicotine.
But according to Baguma these companies just want to widen their market by targeting women and children.
A study by the World Health Organisation in 16 nations found that 81% of the tobacco products target young people.
“The tobacco industry uses marketing to drive the uptake of smoking among children and young people. Its sales are falling in high-income countries and so its future profitability depends on getting young people hooked on smoking in low-income countries,” Baguma said.
Parents have been advised to be very keen about what kind of products their children buy. Some of the new tobacco products are in the shape of sweets and lipstick.