Everest Kayondo the leader of city tycoons has vowed the group will fight to the end until the Tobacco Control Bill is thrown out of Parliament. The Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) insists that the bill that was presented in Parliament in March, and is currently being discussed by the parliamentary Committee on health needs to be revised or binned as it will throw some of them out of business.
Kayondo in a press release issued on Thursday says that it would have devastating effects on them if passed in its current form that is currently being discussed by the parliamentary Committee on health.
“We have obtained a copy of the Bill, read, analysed it and we feel that some provisions in it are not favorable to our businesses as far as trade in tobacco products is concerned,” Kayondo says.
“It is our responsibility as KACITA to engage government on matters related to policies and government decisions affecting trade.
We wish to point it out that considering the membership of KACITA and the wide range of players in the supply chain the bill if passed in its present form will affect many. The proposals highlighted in this document as reflected in the Bill seek to make it impossible for our members to trade in tobacco products which constitute a significant share of their sales in terms of value. We are concerned if the law comes into operation the way it is proposed in the bill, the sale of tobacco in this country will be made impossible. This will mean loss of employment and revenue not only to our members but also to the government. It will also mean that smokers will be left to get tobacco products from the black market, which is illegal and may result in increased crime rates.”
KACITA on Wednesday presented to the parliamentary committee on health their views about the bill and revealed they wished to share the same views through the media the “forth pillar of good governance” to communicate our issues and concerns to the general public,” he adds.
1. Section 15 of the Bill: Ban the sale and display of tobacco products in specified places or within 500 meters from public places.
Under subsection (1) Enabling of a sale or facilitation of a sale or buying of tobacco or tobacco products is banned in the places as specified in the fourth schedule of the Act. The list provided under the schedule is non-exhaustive indicative list of places in which the sale of tobacco products is prohibited. These places include health institutions, schools, churches, mosques, and sports establishments. Under ordinary circumstances, tobacco products are not sold in these establishments. The requirement that they cannot be sold within 500 meters (Half a Kilometer) from these places is what makes the section unrealistic.
According to the memorandum in the Bill, the provisions are proposed to facilitate regulation on the sale and distribution of tobacco and tobacco products. KACITA however feel that this provision under Section 15 and the Schedule are meant to ban the sale of tobacco products.
They submit that; the provision will make it impossible for any distributor, wholesale, retailer to deal in any tobacco product.
This is because there cannot be found any place that is not within 500 meters of a public place like a school, a church, a hotel, or a sports ground within the city. The result will be that legal sales of tobacco products will fall to zero, and the gap will be filled by smugglers and black market. The loss to government revenue and to our traders’ incomes will be immense, unjustified, and unreasonable.
They also submitted that the policy maker should review this section of the Bill and either deletes or changes it to make it realistic and enforceable.
2. Section 15 (3) – Prohibition on the Display of Tobacco Products at Points of Sale
Under subsection (3) of Section 15, the Bill bans the display or making visible of any tobacco products. The section only allows the product to be visible at the time of sale as it passes between the sale and the buyer.
The city traders’ concern is that this will force our members to sell tobacco products while hidden under counters as if tobacco is illegal product. We also do not understand how the smoker and other people will get to see the health warnings on cigarette packs if the product packs are hidden. Such a mode of sale also increases the amount of time a retailer spends serving each customer, and may even lead to shop-lifting instances since the retailer has to go to wherever the packs are hidden. The proposal will also encourage the trade in counterfeit cigarettes since there is no way of enforcement officers seeing the packs on display and verifying on their legality.
Therefore, the traders proposed that; the section of this law banning display of tobacco products be removed. The drafters of the Bill should include sections in the Bill that will help the government fight the counterfeiting and smuggling of cigarettes and other products.
Clause 15 sub-section (5) A person shall not import, manufacture, distribute, sell or offer for sale a unit packet of tobacco or a tobacco product unless the packet is intact and contains 20 sticks of cigarette or 20 sticks of cigarillos or 20 sticks of any other tobacco product or 100 grams of tobacco or a tobacco product.
The traders are also oppossing the bill basing on the fact that if one looks at the retail market of Uganda they will see the traders serve many clients from rich to poor. Not everyone has the same capacity to buy the same product.
They further suggest that the drafter of the bill should consider knowledge and sharing of information, as key factor to educate the public about the content of tobacco product rather than hiding information by putting ban on displaying tobacco products at sale points.
KACITA reiterate that the law should seek to protect the health of the public without affecting the doing of business and social well being of the public in the way illustrated above. Any loss of incomes due to these measures means loss not only to our members but the farmers of tobacco as well as to the government.