Following the passing of the Uganda Tobacco Control Bill 2015 by Parliament on July 28, President Museveni, has assented to the Act, facilitating yet another milestone in tobacco control, not just in Uganda, but in Africa as a whole. The Act that was assented to by the president on September 19, 2015 “shall come into force after six months from the date of its publication in the gazette."
Uganda signed and ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control ( FCTC) in 2005 and 2007 respectively and, was per the guidelines, obliged to have domesticated the treaty by the end of 2012, five years after ratification. The signing of the act by the president therefore makes this a critical step for all tobacco control partners and champions, who have over the years worked tirelessly to ensure that Uganda gets a comprehensive Tobacco control legislation.
According to the office of the Clerk to Parliament, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation (UPPC) at Entebbe are the authority mandated to publish the laws of Uganda. Accordingly, the Clerk to Parliament will now forward the law to the Ministry of Justice who will in turn instruct UPPC to publish the same in the Uganda Gazette. The law will then come into force six months from the day of publication in the gazette.
Relatedly, it is important to note that obligations imposed on a manufacturer, supplier, retailer, importer or exporter of a tobacco product can only be effected after one and half years from the date of publication of the Act. Section 47 of the Act stipulates that
"a manufacturer, supplier, retailer or importer or exporter of a tobacco product shall comply with the requirements of this Act within one year of the commencement of this Act."
Accordingly, sections like 16 (2) (c) which prohibit the importation, manufacture, distribution, processing, sale or offering for sale of smokeless or flavored tobacco product can only be effected after 18 months (one and half years) from the date of publication of the law.
There are however other provisions of the law that will take effect from the end of six months of Act’s publication. Such provisions like Section 3 (1) which establishes the Tobacco Control Committee will be operational six months after the publication date.
The Tobacco Control Act 2015 was first presented in Parliament in March 2014 by Hon. Chris Baryomunsi, as a Private Member’s Bill seconded by Hon. David Bahati. It was then referred to the Parliamentary Health Committee for further scrutiny and consultations with stakeholders. On July 14, the bill was presented to the House for the 2nd reading, by a new mover, Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro, who assumed lead after the original mover, Hon. Chris Baryomunsi, was appointed Minister of Health for General duties. On July 28, the bill was overwhelmingly passed by Parliament, following a two week long debate and consultations within the House that had constituted itself into a committee.
A key unique factor in the entire process was consolidation of efforts, resources and expertise by all TC partners in Uganda under the TC Coordination Mechanism. The Mechanism is Chaired by Ministry of Health while CTCA is the secretariat.