At least 17 people, including a South Sudan government official, were arrested in bars and detained on Saturday on allegations of smoking tobacco in public places. Police in Kampala said the suspects, one of whom identified himself as a minister in the East African country had been detained at Kabalagala Police Division.
Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, confirmed the arrest on Sunday and added that: “He (the minister) only identified himself in the morning during suspects’ parade. He has been released after establishing his particulars.”Although police declined to state whether he will be arraigned in court, sources say he might not be taken to court in order to avoid ruining the diplomatic relationship between two countries.Police raided Kampala Forest, De Posh and Savanah bars on Saturday evening where they arrested the suspects.
The Tobacco Control Act 2015 entered in force in May 2016. At least three people have been convicted for smoking in public. Mr Owoyesigyire said the other suspects are to be arraigned in court on Monday on charges of selling and smoking tobacco contrary to Section 16 (7) of the Tobacco Control Act. According to the Tabacco Control Act, a person convicted of smoking or selling tobacco in a public area is liable to a jail term not less than one year or a fine of Shs480,000 or both.
The owner of the bar in which the tobacco was smoked can be fined Shs20m and his or her licence suspended for at least six months. Smoking of Shisha is popular among the youth and many bars and entertainment places in the country are selling it despite the ban. Anti-smoking activists says it is leading to passive smoking thus affecting none smokers. Smoking is linked to lung cancer which is one of the cause of death of over 13,000 people. The cost of treatment of lung cancer is too high for individual patients therefore the burden falls on the tax payers to shoulder it.
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