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Clarity on anti-smoking laws needed to keep tourists in Uganda safe

Clarity on anti-smoking laws needed to keep tourists in Uganda safe

Tourism stakeholders, wishing for understandable reasons to remain anonymous, have demanded that the Ugandan government provide clarity on the application of the anti-smoking laws which have been in effect since late 2015.

The calls were apparently triggered by raids on at least 4 bars popular with expatriates and tourists in Kampala, which saw over 30 people arrested and Shisha pipes confiscated.

“That law talks also of the possession and use of electronic cigarettes. Many tourists still smoke, something many Ugandans also still do. But it would mostly be tourists found with electronic cigarettes and it is better to know what we need to tell them than see some arrested and spoil our country’s reputation. If we cannot tell our tourists what is what, they can blame us for not informing them properly. I think the government should provide a pamphlet about the smoking laws which we can add for tourists in their information pack. The last thing we want to see is some of them arrested and then some silly prosecutor saying something about ignorance of the law is no excuse. I hope you get my meaning.”

With the concern expressed from several sides, two of them pointing to the upcoming Pearl of Africa Travel Expo next month for which nearly 100 hosted buyers and international travel media are expected to come to Uganda to act as future tourism ambassadors and catalysts, it would indeed be a welcome move by government, through line ministries and the Ministry of Tourism, to provide a comprehensive guide for tourists of what laws exists in Uganda which may prohibit behavior or customs they are used to from back home.

Added another regular source: “If tourists commit regular crimes, like shoplifting, theft, breaking in, causing bodily harm or worse, of course that is globally accepted to be a crime and must be prosecuted. But then we in Uganda have such issues like not permitting possession of electronic cigarettes which smoking tourists often bring with them. Then there are also other laws which are prohibiting things those visitors are used to from home. It is for their safety and for our reputation as a destination that we want government to clarify and provide written guidance.”

Penalties for those successfully prosecuted under the anti-tobacco laws of Uganda range from prison terms of up to 1 year and fines or both.

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