Uganda- Country Profile

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Uganda is a country in East Africa with an estimated population of 42.9 million.1 Tobacco growing and manufacturing was introduced in the 1920s by British American Tobacco (BAT) and Uganda is now an important player in the East African tobacco industry.2

Smoking in Uganda

The 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking 2000-2025, estimated the prevalence of smoking in adults to be 12.9% in men and 0.6% in women.3

Results from the 2011 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (the most recent available) suggest that amongst young people (13-15 year-olds), 19.3% of young men and 15.8% of young women use tobacco.4

Tobacco in Uganda

Tobacco leaf production in Uganda increased significantly after 2006, when BAT established Uganda as the hub of its Leaf Operations in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (EEMEA), supplying 20 countries worldwide.5 The export of tobacco leaf has since grown significantly, from USD 26,964,000 in 2006 to USD 58,256,000 in 2012, as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.6

The number of farmers growing tobacco crop has also risen over the same period. In 2014 BAT Uganda announced it would no longer grow tobacco leaf in Uganda, and Alliance One International (an international tobacco leaf merchant) stated it would take over BAT’s leaf operations.78 At the time, BAT was reported in the Ugandan press to be responsible for 70% of Uganda’s tobacco leaf production,9 an estimated 75,000 farmers were relying on the crop by 2020.10 An estimated 95% of the tobacco leaf produced in the country is exported to Kenya.10 (Based on Euromonitor data).

Who Dominates the Market?

In 2019, British American Tobacco Uganda accounted for 51.7% of overall volume sales in the Uganda tobacco cigarette market.10

BAT Uganda’s main competitor in the market is Continental Tobacco Uganda (a subsidiary of Kenyan owned Mastermind Tobacco Kenya).11

Roadmap to Tobacco Control

Historically there are a number of laws that have regulated aspects of tobacco control in Uganda, namely: The Tobacco (Control and Marketing) Act (1967), Public Health Act (1964), Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995), National Environment Act (1996), and the National Environment Regulations (2004).12

Uganda ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in June 2007.13 The regulations listed above did not comply with the FCTC. To safeguard public health and regulate the tobacco industry in Uganda, the Ministry of Health began drafting the country’s first dedicated tobacco control law, the Uganda Tobacco Control Bill (UCTB).

Uganda Tobacco Control Bill

The UTCB (now the Uganda Tobacco Control Act 2015) sought to “regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling, promotion, advertising, distribution, public use of tobacco products, and sponsoring of tobacco products”.14

In March 2014, the Bill was presented for its first reading and was subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Health for further revisions and consultation.14 In July 2015, 15 months after its first reading and after intense pressure from the tobacco control community to oppose many instances of tobacco industry interference, the Bill was finally presented for its second reading in Parliament by Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro.15

The UTCB was finally passed in the Ugandan Parliament on its third reading on the 28th July 2015 and signed in to law by President Museveni on the 19 September 2015,16 eight years after Uganda ratified the FCTC. The Bill’s provisions for tobacco control were considered to be the strongest in Africa at the time of passage,1718 and include:

  • 100% smoke-free public places;
  • pictorial health warnings, covering 65% of the pack to inform the public of the dangers of tobacco;
  • tobacco taxes are at a 40% of the retail price 19
  • prohibiting tobacco industry interference;
  • a ban on the sale of cigarettes to and by persons less than 21 years;
  • a ban on smoking within a distance of 50 meters of any public place (including shisha, electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco products);
  • ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS);
  • requirements that cigarette packs “shall not prominently display” at point-of-sale.17

Industry Interference in Tobacco Control

Uganda’s commitment to tobacco control has been met with consistent opposition from the tobacco industry; industry tactics to undermine the Tobacco Control Act have included: “blackmailing” politicians,20 employing front groups and third parties to further the industry agenda,21 violating the FCTC Article 5.3 by directly engaging politicians22 and influencing policymaking through trade committees23 and farmers organisations.24

In November 2016, BAT Uganda launched legal action against the government challenging the Tobacco Control Act of 2015.25 The petition, submitted to the Constitutional Court in Kampala, asserted that the Tobacco Control Act had the effect of unjustifiably singling out the tobacco industry for discriminatory treatment and contravened Articles 40(2), 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.2627 In May 2019, the Court upheld the 2015 Tobacco Control Act as constitutional, dismissing the petition and rejecting this legal challenge.252627 Justice Kenneth Kakuru said in his judgment:

“…legislations like the Tobacco Control Act that seeks to protect the public from the adverse effects of the petitioner’s products (tobacco) cannot be said to be unconstitutional.” 26

In April 2019, the Ugandan Ministry of Trade passed a draft of proposed tobacco regulations to BATU. This resulted in a letter from British American Tobacco Uganda providing input on the proposed regulations, which generated conflicts of interest and violated the FCTC.19

The 2020 Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index by the STOP initiative ranked Uganda as the country with the 3rd least tobacco industry interference out of the 57 countries surveyed.19 However, there is a need to create greater awareness of the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act and inform all departments of the limits it imposes when interacting with the tobacco industry.28

Extensive research published in 2021 by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, a partner in STOP, and in conjunction with BBC’s Panorama, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project uncovered multiple instances of British American Tobacco seeking to frustrate tobacco control measures in Africa.

Tobacco Company CSR during the Covid-19 Pandemic

In December 2020, a joint Ugandan/British public health research project reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has given the tobacco industry an opportunity to participate in public health at national and district levels by donating US $65,000 to the National COVID-19 task force in Uganda.29 This is part of a wider pattern of tobacco industry corporate social responsibility during the pandemic.

  • See this timeline to read more about the nature and frequency of tobacco industry attempts to derail tobacco control in Uganda.

TobaccoTactics Resources


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  1. World Bank, Uganda overview, 2019, accessed June 2019
  2. L. Mpabulingi, A.S. Muula, Tobacco use among high school students in Kampala, Uganda: Questionnaire study, Croatian Medical Journal, 2004, 45(1):80-83, accessed November 2015
  3. World Health Organization, (WHO) Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking 2000-2025, 2018, accessed November 2020
  4. Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Uganda – Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2011, WHO NCD Microdata Repository, June 2012, accessed December 2020
  5. S.Misasizi, Uganda becomes key tobacco producer, The Observer (Uganda), 11 March 2012, accessed December 2020 2015
  6. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAOSTAT, accessed December 2020
  7. Uganda: Tobacco firm quits before new Uganda law, All Africa, 14 September 2014, accessed November 2015
  8. I. M. Ladu, BATU cedes leaf operations to new tobacco company, Daily Monitor, 1 September 2014, accessed December 2020
  9. O.Okwera, 85 years of tobacco in Uganda, New Vision, accessed October 2015
  10. abcEuromonitor, Tobacco in Uganda. October 2020, accessed November 2020
  11. History of the Tobacco Industry in Uganda and a Glance at its Impact on the Country, Masakeonline, December 2013, accessed December 2020
  12. CTFK, Tobacco Control Laws, Country details for Uganda, accessed December 2020
  13. World Health Organisation, FCTC implementation database, 2015, accessed December 2020
  14. abParliament of Uganda, Draft of the Tobacco Control Bill 2014, 28 February 2014, accessed December 2020
  15. The Tobacco Act 2015, Uganda Legal Information Institute, November 2015, accessed December 2020
  16. Center for Tobacco Control Africa, Uganda’s President assents to the Tobacco Control Act 2015, accessed December 2020
  17. abThe Union, Uganda passes tobacco control law in line with the world’s most stringent policies, 28 July 2015, accessed December 2020
  18. M. Peiris, To improve health and save lives for generations – Uganda passes comprehensive TC law, Asian Tribune, August 2015, accessed December 2020
  19. abcGlobal Tobacco Industry Interference Index, Uganda Country Factsheet, November 2020, accessed November 2020
  20. J. Doward, Tobacco giant ‘tried blackmail’ to block Ugandan anti-smoking law, The Guardian, 12 July 2014, accessed December 2020
  21. MP for Kinkizi East, Letter to the Minister of Health, PSFU/Tobacco Industry comments on Uganda Tobacco Control Bill, 18 October 2012
  22. Tobacco Industry Presentation, Tobacco Industry Key Concerns: The Tobacco Control Bill 2014, 11 April 2014
  23. Minister for Trade Industry and Cooperatives, Uganda’s proposed position to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Sixth Conference of Parties (COP 6), 26 September 2014
  24. Uganda Tobacco Growers Association, Petition to the Speaker of the Parliament, Petition on farmers’ concerns over the Tobacco Control Bill 2014, 1 June 2014
  25. abTobacco Free Kids, Uganda’s Constitutional Court Soundly Rejects British American Tobacco Suit, Upholds Tobacco Control Regulations, 28 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  26. abcK. Kazibwe, Court blasts BAT Uganda as petition against Tobacco Control Act is thrown out, The Nile Post, 28 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  27. abR. Agaba, Court quashes BAT’s petition against Tobacco Control Act, PML Daily, 28 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  28. STOP, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index- Uganda, November 2020, accessed November 2020
  29. S. N. Kabwama, K. N. Nyamurungi, F. Davidson, F. Dobbie, L. Bauld, Tobacco control in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda: a policy implementation review, Journal of Global Health Reports, 2020;4:e2020095, doi:10.29392/001c.17607