Uganda- Timeline: Industry Interference with the Uganda Tobacco Control Bill 2014

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This timeline provides a chronological overview of some of the main ways tobacco companies have tried to influence the development of the Uganda Tobacco Control Bill (now the Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015).

  • Click here for an infographic of industry interference in Uganda.
  • Click here for the evidence countering industry arguments against tobacco control in Uganda.

Timeline of Industry Interference Concerning the Uganda Tobacco Control Bill (UTCB) 2014

Date Event
12 April 2011 Farmers in the Kanungu region, a major tobacco growing region in Uganda, received a message from a British American Tobacco (BAT) Uganda tobacco inspector that read: “This is to inform the farmers that no company apart from BAT is allowed to sponsor the production of tobacco as provided by law. Anybody doing so will be doing it as his/her own risk.”1 In response, farmers in the Kanungu region appealed to the Government to help end the BAT Uganda monopoly in the sponsorship of tobacco production and urged that other players be brought on board for fairer competition.
24 July 2012 A public hearing on the UTCB was convened by the MP responsible for presenting and pushing the bill through the Parliamentary procedure (the mover of the bill). The tobacco industry was heavily represented.2
7 August 2012 The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), sent Hon. Chris Baryomunsi (the current mover of the bill) and other top policymakers and institutions arguments against the UTCB.2 PSFU is a corporate member organisation that describes itself as “the focal point for private sector advocacy” that sustains “a positive dialogue with Government on behalf of the private sector”.3 BAT is a fee-paying corporate member,4 estimated to pay PSFU approximately two million Uganda Shillings in membership fees and one million Uganda Shillings in annual subscriptions5 to represent the tobacco company’s interests in policy making.
As described by the mover of the bill, the arguments against the UTCB were largely “misleading, inaccurate and in some instances deliberately misrepresenting the facts” and proposed that the bill would violate Uganda’s obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreements.2 The TRIPS international agreement provides protection for intellectual property rights. The tobacco industry has frequently used the intellectual property argument to try to weaken legislation in other parts of the world, including Kenya, Australia and the UK. For evidence against this argument, see Countering Industry Arguments It Breaches Intellectual Property Rights.
5 June 2013 Following World No Tobacco Day, in an article for the Ugandan Observer titled “Anti-Tobacco critics should go slow”, BAT Uganda Managing Director, Jonathan D’Souza, pledged the tobacco company’s support for the regulations, but asked that they be considered on the industry’s terms in a manner that is “sensible, balanced and enforceable for the benefit of all stakeholders”.6 D’Souza went on to explain that strictly regulating tobacco will result in an increase in illicit trade by “a network of criminals” and that anti-tobacco critics “should be careful what they wish for”. He continued: We (BAT Uganda) “are a legitimate company which conducts our business in a professional and responsible way, abiding by the laws in all the countries we operate in, often going above and beyond our legal requirements.”6
See Countering Industry Arguments It Will Lead to Increased Smuggling for evidence against the claim that regulation will increase illicit trade and BAT Involvement in Tobacco Smuggling for background on the company’s complicity in smuggling. Also see BAT Uganda and the UTCB for more information on how the tobacco company has worked behind the scenes to undermine the bill despite claiming to be responsible.
5 June 2013 Farmers from the Bunyoro region protested against the UTCB, which they had been led to believe would stop them from growing tobacco entirely, leaving farmers “confused whether their crop will be bought because we have heard about a possible ban on tobacco growing”.7 At this time the farmers of the Bunyoro region were predominantly contracted for BAT Uganda.8 The information concerning a ban on growing tobacco was entirely misleading, as the proposed UTCB seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale and use of tobacco products but does not suggest a ban on tobacco growing.9
5 November 2013 While awaiting the release of the certificate of financial implications on the UTCB from the Ministry of Finance, the tobacco industry lodged a complaint to the Permanent Secretary to the Ugandan Treasury. The Permanent Secretary subsequently wrote a letter to the clerk of the National Parliament, in which he expressed, among other issues raised by the industry, their claim that they were not consulted as stakeholders in the drafting of the UTCB. The letter was intended to seek audience between the tobacco industry and the Parliament so that their petition could be considered.10
29 January 2014 The Ministry of Agriculture wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury at the Ministry of Finance insisting that the ban on tobacco growing through the UTCB would have “serious negative effects” on farmers and the government, stating that amongst other things: “About 75,000 Tobacco farming families with about 70% of their income derive from Tobacco will lose their income and livelihood” and that “The country will lose export earnings in terms of foreign exchange currently at 75 million dollars per year”.11 This information is misleading, as the UTCB makes no reference to banning tobacco growing in Uganda nor does it regulate the export of tobacco products.11
28 February 2014 Uganda Tobacco Control Bill Gazetted12
6 March 2014 Tobacco Control Bill tabled in the Uganda parliament for the first reading by Kinkizi East MP Dr. Chris Baryomunsi13
17 March 2014 A news report claimed that details had emerged which suggested that officials from BAT Uganda had “secretly met” with members of key parliamentary committees including the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development, the Budget Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, in an attempt “to lobby them against passing the Tobacco Control bill 2014”.14 This can be viewed as a breach of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which among other things sets guidelines for interaction between governments and the tobacco industry, to limit industry interference with tobacco control and health policies.
19 March 2014 BAT was accused of “blackmail” by the MP responsible for drafting and pushing the bill through parliamentary procedure.15 In a letter addressed to the MP that was the mover of the bill, BAT Uganda Managing Director D’Souza expressed his concerns with the draft tobacco control legislation and informed the MP that while “We would normally start contracting farmers in the area during May…we regret to inform you that we will not be contracting farmers in Kihihi MP’s constituency for the 2014/15 season” as the challenges arising from the UTCB make it “impossible for us to commit at this point, to another season of tobacco sponsorship in Kihihi “.16
7 April 2014 A letter was sent from the Managing Director of BAT Uganda and the Uganda Tobacco Service (UTS) along with the Regional Leaf Manager from Leaf Tobacco & Commodities (LTC) to the Clerk of the Parliament highlighting the significant contributions the tobacco sector had made to the Ugandan economy and requesting permission to organise a meeting with MPs from tobacco growing areas “to discuss a number of operational issues touching on tobacco activity in their respective constituencies”.17 This can be viewed as another tobacco company violation of the FCTC.
11 April 2014 At a closed invitation presentation hosted at the Sheraton Hotel Kampala, the tobacco industry lobbied MPs from tobacco growing districts proposing arguments to challenge the UTCB. The tobacco industry arguments leaned heavily on the negative consequences the bill potentially might have on tobacco farmers within the MP’s constituencies, claiming that the industry is responsible for supporting three million livelihoods in Uganda (10% of total population).18
11 April 2014 The Ministry of Trade collaborated with the tobacco industry to compile a submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Health regarding the UTCB.19 The submission outlined the tobacco industry’s arguments against the different components of the UTCB, without citing evidence to support any of their claims.
14 April 2014 BAT Uganda submitted a letter and review of the UTCB to the Parliamentary Committee on Health, in line with what they called “the principle of consultation as enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda (1995)” despite the limitations the FCTC places on its necessary restriction in policymaking.20 On the same day, under the leadership of BAT, the tobacco industry of Uganda gave a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Health providing their input on the UTCB, and suggested that the majority of clauses within the bill be repealed or amended according to the tobacco industry’s recommendations. 21
25 April 2014 Jonathan D’Souza, Managing Director of BAT Uganda, spoke out publicly against the UTCB Clause 15 (3), which seeks to ban the display of tobacco products at any point of sale and claimed that “there is no evidence to support a ban on tobacco displays” and that “display bans would also increase the illicit tobacco trade by driving legal tobacco sales under the counter.”22 When plain packaging legislation was being debated in the UK and Australia, the tobacco industry also suggested it would lead to an increase in illicit trade.
See Countering Industry Arguments: Plain Packaging leads to Smuggling for evidence against this claim. Also see Uganda – Countering Industry Arguments Against Tobacco Control in Uganda for evidence on the effectiveness of display bans.
1 June 2014 A letter was sent from the Ugandan Tobacco Growers Association (UTGA) to the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda which outlined arguments opposing the UTCB.23 The arguments were presented as the voices and opinions of tobacco farmers in Uganda. However, the UTGA is a country member of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA),24 a front group set up, funded and mandated by multinational tobacco companies, including BAT, Philip Morris International and Alliance One International.25 Therefore, although UTGA may seem to be independently representing tobacco farmers in Uganda, this is misleading as it is actually representing tobacco company interests. The tobacco industry frequently establishes Front Groups and uses these seemingly independent organisations to appear to represent other stakeholder voices while actually furthering its own interests.
17 July 2014 A petition in favour of the UTCB was presented by farmers of West Nile Region, Kanungu and Hoima Districts to the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda outlining the various reasons for their support of the bill.26 27 This outlines the fact that there are groups of independent farmers not connected to tobacco industry funded front groups like UTGA that support tobacco control measures that will protect them from the detrimental and inequitable way tobacco companies run their business.27
16 September 2014 Regional media reported that tobacco industry funded front group ITGA had “instigated a group of tobacco farmers to petition the Ugandan parliament to delete key provisions that exclude incentives or privileges that promote tobacco businesses in the Ugandan Anti-Tobacco Bill 2014,”28
26 September 2014 The Minister for Trade Industry and Cooperatives submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet outlining why the Ministry should be represented at the FCTC 6th Conference of Parties (COP) in Moscow. The paper highlighted the importance of a multi-sectorial approach and reiterated arguments made by the tobacco industry against the bill, citing issues around intellectual property regulations, increased illicit trade and alluded to the fact that the ban on tobacco growing would had countrywide impacts, thereby misrepresenting the true objects of the UTCB, which do not seek to ban tobacco growing.29
November 2014 A press release from BAT Uganda was published in a local newspaper celebrating 50 years of Ugandan independence and BAT’s 85 years of business in Uganda. The release highlighted its contribution to the economy and its support to tobacco farmers, the environment and food security. It concluded by referring to the potential for tobacco control regulation and the need to include the “corporate compliant industry” in policymaking: “Therefore the industry is fully in support of tobacco regulation but crucially calls for practical, sustainable and enforceable laws. This, the industry hopes, will be reached through engagement of all industry players and regulators. Openly sharing information is required to help policy formulators develop appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks from an informed point of view and forge an amicable way forward as the country ushers in the next 50 years.”30
17 November 2014 In a letter to the Clerk of the Parliament, Dr. Okuonzi Sam Agatre, MP for Vurra (a tobacco growing area), requested to present a petition with over 1000 signatures from tobacco farmers to the parliament Business Committee.31 The enclosed petition insisted that they be included in the shaping of the legislation and states, “Your humble petitioners will be rendered landless, jobless, homeless, poverty stricken, will suffer hunger and even death if their interests are not put into consideration while handling the Tobacco Control Bill 2014.” The petitioners request “intervention by Parliament so to protect the interests of tobacco growers and tobacco companies”.
2 January 2015 While attending the official leaving ceremony of Jonathan D’Souza, outgoing Managing Director of BAT, the Minister for Investment Dr. James Mutemde spoke out about the UTCB claiming it was “unfair” and argued that the proposed law would impact negatively on tobacco production, advertising and consumption. According to local media reports, he added that the government should support tobacco processing companies because they provide a stable market for tobacco growers. The Minister concluded that “…while it is true that smoking causes diseases such as cancer, the smokers generate a lot of income for the government through taxes and I strongly believe they should be left to smoke!”32
14 July 2015 UTCB tabled for second reading at the Uganda Parliament by the second mover Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro.33
28 July 2015 After multiple setbacks due to lack of consensus34 and intense tobacco industry interference, the Uganda Tobacco Control Bill was passed in the Uganda parliament. The “stringent” tobacco control measures, sought to protect the Ugandan population against the health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco and exposure.35 The new legislation introduced a range of tobacco control measures, which included increasing the age of legal purchase of cigarettes to 21 years of age,34 the introduction of graphic health warnings to cover 65% of cigarette packaging and a requirement that indoor public places and workplaces are 100% smoke-free.36
19 September 2015 Uganda President Museveni assents the UTCB (now called the Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015).37
2016 British American Tobacco Uganda legally challenged the regulations included in the Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015 but were dismissed by Uganda´s Constitutional Court.38 39
17 May 2016 The regulations set by the Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015 came became fully operational on 19 May 2017, after the legal challenges by BATU were dismissed.40
11 September 2018 Repeated hearings of the legal challenge to the Tobacco Control Act 2015, as a result of pressure from the tobacco industry.38
April 2019 In April 2019, someone at the Ugandan Ministry of Trade passed a draft of proposed tobacco regulations to BATU. This leak resulted in a letter from British American Tobacco Uganda providing input on the proposed regulations, which generated conflicts of interest.41
28 May 2019 In response to a case brought by BATU against the TCA, Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny -Dollo, stated that “This petition, (…)is part of a global strategy by the Petitioner and others engaged in the same or related trade to undermine legislation in order to expand the boundaries of their trade and increase their profits irrespective of the adverse health risks their products pose to human population.”39 He also argued that the Tobacco Control Act 2015 puts into provision the constitutional rights to protect the citizens of Uganda and their health.39

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  2. abcMP for Kinkizi East, Letter to the Minister of Health, PSFU/Tobacco Industry Comments on Uganda Tobacco Control Bill, 18 October 2012
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  32. Kayiwa, E. Minister blasts Tobacco Control Bill , New Vision, 2 Jan 2015
  33. Uganda Parliament, Order Paper, 14th July 2015
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