KIGALI - A bill that seeks to establish strict measures against smoking in public is back in Parliament and the Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Sezibera, is expected to appear before the concerned committee to defend the draft law.
Sezibera tabled the preamble of the bill before parliament in June this year; however, the committee charged with scrutinizing the bill had never tackled it until last week.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth, chaired by Agnes Mukazibera, was assigned to examine the bill in substance.
Justifying why the committee delayed to table the bill, Mukazibera said that, there have been overriding issues within the committee.
When the committee started deliberations on the bill, Sezibera was represented by his Permanent Secretary and a technical team since he was not in the country. However, members of the committee insisted that the minister be present during the next sitting.
“We are expecting the minister to appear before the committee sometime this week, and that is when debates on the bill shall begin,” said Mukazibera.
Sezibera confirmed that he is aware of the committee’s request to have him on board as they deliberate on the bill.
He however said that he had previously urged the parliament to speed up the bill and that his advice had been considered.
Sezibera added that he was ready to honour the parliamentary request to have him appear before the committee.
Rwanda’s plan to come up with the tobacco control bill is a response to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Rwanda ratified in 2005.
Some of the concerns highlighted by the minister while presenting the bill before parliament in June included the increasing advertisement of tobacco products by cigarette manufacturers which can cause harm mostly to women and children.
Previously, Sezibera had revealed that tobacco contains as much as 400 toxic substances and that research figures reveal that there are tobacco-related effects and 25 diseases that affect the lungs, the heart and blood veins.
According to the bill; ‘No person shall smoke in any public place, including the workplace, or in any part of a public place.’
It lists the restricted areas as being; offices and office buildings, court premises, factories, cinema halls, theatres, video houses when they are open to the public; hospitals, clinics and other health institutions, restaurants, hotels, bars or other eating places.
Other restricted areas include, children’s homes, residential areas and other premises with a commercial childcare activity, or for schooling or tutoring, places of worship, prisons, police stations and cells.
The bill also imposes a ban on smoking from public service vehicles, aircrafts, passenger ships, commuter boats, trains, passenger vehicles, ferries or any other public conveyance and education facilities for attendees aged eighteen and below.
Bus stops and queues at bus stops, airports, airfields, ports, and other public transport terminals, indoor markets, shopping malls and retail and wholesale establishments will also be no smoking areas once the bill is passed into law.
The draft law however indicates that the manager or owner of any enclosed public place and other restricted premises may provide smoking areas within such a place provided they do not inconvenience non-smokers.
The bill also calls for the enlightenment of the public on the dangers of smoking, discourage smoking and protect non-smokers from persuasion or inducements that may encourage them to take up the habit.
A research conducted by the ministry revealed that approximately 880,000 Rwandans smoke. Among these, 58.9% started smoking between at 11 and 15 years, while in academic institutions, between 5.9 of girls and 38.2% of boys smoke.
A recent report by WHO indicates that annually, tobacco smoking claims approximately four million lives worldwide.