The Constitutional Court in Kampala has thrown out a petition by the British American Tobacco Uganda against government over the Tobacco Control Act 2015.
BAT Uganda dragged government to court challenging the constitutionality of the act that came into force on May 18, 2016 six months after the president had assented to it.
In his judgment on Tuesday, Justice Kenneth Kakuru who was part of the panel of 6 judges said the legislation was put in place to limit smoking and the impacts of tobacco on life and human health .
The Constitutional Court judge also ruled that the requirement under the regulation for cigarette companies to place text and pictorial health warnings and messages on tobacco products covering 65% of the outside packing is designed to meet the international law.
“That requirement does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objective. I say so considering that other free and democratic countries have regulations requiring that the warning covers more than 65% of the package,” Justice Kakuru said.
“Tobacco is the only legal drug that kills its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturers. Tobacco kills more than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined and in the next two decades, the annual death toll from tobacco is expected to rise to over eight million.”
Blasts BAT Uganda
Justice Kakuru in a judgment upheld by his fellow justices said that just like many other companies dealing in tobacco around the world, BAT Uganda had brought the petition as one of its strategies to frustrate laws against tobacco smoking.
“These cases, suits and petitions are now collectively known as tobacco litigations .In almost all of them, the arguments of the tobacco companies are simply the same as those advanced herein by the petitioner in this case.”
He said there are a number of strategies including influencing policy and thwarting effective legal policy framework world -wide noting that tobacco companies have used their resources to try to kill policies and undermine the enforcement of tobacco legislations.
The no nonsense judge said tobacco companies also use trade agreements to attack public health measures, distorting the science of the health effects of tobacco use, challenge bans and restrictions on secondhand smoke, promote illicit tobacco trade (smuggling),sue or threaten to sue governments, promote and fund ineffective youth prevention programs among other strategies all meant to frustrate governments efforts to control tobacco use.
“That is why government should curtail tobacco companies’ involvement in public health policy. Therefore legislations like the Tobacco Control Act that seeks to protect the public from the adverse effects of the petitioner’s products (tobacco) cannot be said to be unconstitutional,” Justice Kenneth Kakuru said in his judgment.
Fellow judges on the panels including the Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo, Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Helen Obura, and Egonda Ntende concurred with Kakuru’s judgment before dismissing the petition by British American Tobacco Uganda and ordered the tobacco company to pay for costs incurred in the case.