Source: New Vision
Research done in Uganda shows that the average Ugandan child starts smoking at the age of 13. In tobacco growing areas like Arua district, the initiation age is even lower, with some children taking to the habit at the age of nine.

In such areas, research shows, 61% of smokers expose their family members to second hand smoke. Second hand smoking can be fatal to a person who does not smoke at all.

One explanation for such a low initiation age, according to the Kanungu district LC3 chairman, Nelson Natukunda, is easy access to tobacco.

In Kihiihi sub-county, for instance, he revealed that most farmers keep their harvested tobacco in their houses because they have no stores. This exposes the young to tobacco consumption at a tender age. These revelations were made during a media house training on Tobacco control for Radio stations in Kanungu and Rukungiri districts.

According to the Coalition of Tobacco Control Alliance in Uganda, more young girls are taking to smoking when compared to boys. The National Coordinator for Uganda Communications Alliance, Richard Baguma Tinkasimire, blamed advertising campaigns that portray smoking as socially acceptable to the youth for the alarming trend.

"Strong action must be taken to protect women, especially the young ones from the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke," he cautioned.

Baguma revealed that a lot of money is spent on treating tobacco related illness and diseases. "More than sh200 billion is spent on treating cancer related diseases as a result of tobacco consumption.

It has been proved that 75% of the patients of oral cancer at Mulago Hospital had a history of smoking for a period ranging from two to eight," he said.

He said since Uganda ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco control the government needs to expedite the Tobacco control bills to protect children and other innocent people.

The MP for Kinkiizi East, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, tabled a private members bill to parliament to enact more stringent laws to control tobacco consumption in the country.

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